Rise in remote work drives global spend on wearable devices
Worldwide end-user spending on wearable devices will reach $81.5 billion in 2021, marking an 18.1% increase from $69 billion in 2020, fuelled by the rise in remote work and interest in health monitoring during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ranjit Atwal, senior research director at Gartner, Inc. noted that ear-worn devices and smartwatches are seeing particularly robust growth as consumers rely on these devices for remote work, fitness activities, health tracking and more.
“The introduction of health measures to self-track COVID-19 symptoms, along with increasing interest from consumers in their personal health and wellness during global lockdowns, presented a significant opportunity for the wearables market,” Atwal said.
Spending on ear-worn devices increased 124% in 2020, totalling $32.7 billion, and is forecast to reach $39.2 billion in 2021. This growth can be attributed to remote workers upgrading their headphones for video calling and consumers purchasing headphones to use with smartphone devices.
Smartwatch end-user spending increased 17.6% to reach $21.8 billion in 2020, driven in part by new users entering the market. This growth is forecast to continue through 2021 as new processor technologies and improvements to solid-state batteries increase battery life and shorten charging times.
Smart patches are also projected to see significant growth in 2021. These non-invasive health-monitoring sensors which stick to the skin’s surface are used to measure temperature, heart rate, blood sugar and other vital statistics. They can also remotely administer medication, such as insulin for diabetic patients.
Atwal noted that although smart patches have been around for some time, adoption has been slow due to strict regulatory compliance and resistance from users and medical staff to adopt automated drug administration.
“The shift to e-health, especially during COVID-19, will transform users’ perceptions of automated health provision and increase the demand for smart patches,” Atwal said.
With device makers focused on improving sensor accuracy, the performance gap between medical- and nonmedical-grade wearables is closing, driving growth in multiple wearable device categories.
“The capability of embedded sensors is often a determining factor in the reliability and usefulness of a wearable product. Given the sensor improvement trend seen over the last several years, sensors built into wearable devices will be increasingly capable of more accurate readings, driving market growth over the next 3-5 years,” Atwal said.
Advances in miniaturisation have also influenced the wearables market by enabling device makers to integrate sensors into wearables that are nearly invisible to the end user, such as in the Oura Ring, Spire Health Tag or Proteus Discover. Gartner predicts that by 2024, miniaturising capabilities will advance to the point that 10% of all wearable technologies will become unobtrusive to the user.
“Continued advances in miniaturisation and integration will enable further use cases and benefit adoption of smart garments, printed wearables, ingestibles and smart patches. These discrete and nearly invisible wearables will be particularly relevant and accepted by traditionally reluctant end users, such as elderly patients who require medical applications but don’t want to call attention to the device or their ailment,” Atwal said.
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