The worldwide wearable computing market will more than triple in sales over the next year, according to the IDC study, Worldwide Wearable Computing Device 2014-2018 Forecast and Analysis.
Shipment volumes will exceed 19 million units in 2014 and the global market will rise to 111.9 million units in 2018, a growth rate of 78.4%.
The segment of the market that is currently most popular is complex accessories, such as Nike+ FuelBand, Jawbone UP and Fitbit devices.
These products are designed to operate partially independent of any other device, but fully operate when connected with IP-capable devices, such as a smartphone, tablet or PC.
But smart accessories – which allow users to add third-party applications – are expected to surpass complex accessory shipments by 2018.
According to IDC, while not quite ready for prime time, the smart accessory market will continue to mature as users better understand and accept the value proposition and vendors refine their offerings.
The third segment of the market is smart wearables, which function with full autonomy, independent of any other device, except to access the internet.
IDC says that to succeed, smart wearable vendors must convince users to shift to a new user experience while offering them a robust selection of third-party applications.
Microsoft is broadly expected to get into the wearable technology market, with its acquisition of patents for augmented reality intellectual property worth up to US$150 million from Osterhout Design Group (pictured above).
The San Francisco-based company develops wearable technology accessories, such as head-mounted technology, for industry and the military.
The Verge also reported in December that Alex Kipman, general manager of Xbox incubation projects, is heading up the company’s plans for wearable computers and customising Windows to run on even smaller screens.
In terms of wearable technology use in the enterprise, retail is one industry that is expected to benefit.
Paul Butcher, retail strategist at Intel, told OnWindows: “These innovations are exposing new privacy concerns but we can’t ignore their implications for our approaches to market intelligence, discovery of purchase intent, message relevance, CRM, loyalty programmes, brand preference engines, incentives, rewards and more.
“Instead of delivering a static one-way dialogue, they allow retailers to identify themes and provide a complete shopping experience. Imagine the connected coffee customer, able to walk into a shop with their favourite drink and pastry paid for and prepared the moment they arrive.
“This is where we can start to meaningfully intersect behaviours important to our customers and create real value, which differentiates our brand.”
Mobile software specialist Resco has also made its mobile customer relationship management client for Dynamics CRM compatible with Google Glass.
Resco believes that, using wearable technologies, retail companies can build consumer applications to enhance the customer experience.
Shoppers could see product details as they glance at the shelves at a store and businesses can then promote products when customers are most inclined to purchase.
Or if a customer is on an IT support line, instead of a long process of asking a series of questions for troubleshooting, support employees can ask the customer to start a live stream instead.
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