wearable

iWatch interest reflects the lure of wearable computing

Amid speculation about an Apple iWatch, analysts forecast that the market for wearable computing devices will near half a billion units sales a year within the next five years.

(See Apple testing smart watch designs, iWatch.)

ABI Research forecasts the wearable computing device market will become the norm for many and grow to 485 million annual device shipments by 2018.

Currently, sports and activity trackers account for the largest chunk (61 percent) of wearable technologies shipping today. (See also "Interactive Apparel: Are Those Pants, or Is That a Keyboard You're Wearing?")

Smart activity trackers, from companies such as Fitbit and Nike, are widely available, and the devices' "trendy and stylish" appearance makes them very popular with a broad range of customers. (See Fitbit Flex UK price.)

Smartphone-compatible watches, such as the Pebble, are beginning to emerge, and rumors are legion regarding Apple releasing a smart watch later this year. The so-called iWatch would sync with the owner's iPhone.

Also expected to arrive this year are the much-teased smart glasses. Google is already publicly testing its smart glasses called Google Glass.

Sizeable market

"The furor about wearable technologies, particularly smart watches and smart glasses is unsurprising," says Josh Flood, senior analyst at ABI Research.

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Both technologies are very stimulating and some of the applications for the device are rather inspiring, he said.

"Apple's curved glass-based watch could prove to be a revelation in the wearable technologies market," Flood said. "The major question is whether the digital time piece will act as a complimentary device to the company's iPhone smartphones or as a standalone product with other functionalities like health or activity tracking capabilities."

Additionally, smart watches offer extra usages for an item most people already own and commonly purchase. It may become universally expected for watches to include this functionality as feature in the future.

Furthermore, the capabilities of smart watches could lead to the device being used as a wearable remote for home automation systems. A quick shake of your wrist to turn off/on room lights would be a very convenient tool.

See also "Computers that you can wear" and "A brief history of wearable computers."

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