Flash analysis: opportunities and roadblocks for wearables

1Executive Summary

There have long been alpha adopters of wearable technologies, but only recently has the industry advanced far enough to where there’s potential for mass-market adoption.

The continued miniaturization of computing, advances in battery life, the ever-lower price points for advanced screen technology, and the explosion in better and ever-smarter sensor technology have created what looks to be the perfect storm for wearables across a number of categories, making way for huge strides in the coming years in both feature and platform innovation.

However, while there is significant investor and technology-innovator interest in wearables, the general public is only beginning to understand what the disparate categories are and how each could be used to possibly better their lives. The most well understood category today is that of fitness bands, thanks in large part to scrappy companies such as Fitbit (see disclosure) and Jawbone who have created fitness monitoring wearables. However, even the fitness category is likely below 5 percent market penetration.

Expecting wearables marketing to explode in 2014, we surveyed approximately 180 Gigaom readers, and asked them to tell us some of the hurdles for the wearable category, which types of wearables they were most excited about, and also to give us some of their open-ended opinions on wearables.

What were the top-level results?

  • Challenges ahead. When asked what potential challenges lie ahead for smartwatches and smartglasses, a significant number of our respondents felt both categories had yet to see a must-have application that would drive mass adoption. The majority (53 percent) of respondents also felt that the awkwardness of smartglass technology could hurt adoption long-term.
  • New boss, same as the old boss. When we asked our respondents which companies they expected to have the most long-term success in wearables, the names were familiar. Google and Apple nosed out Samsung and buried the startups and Microsoft.
  • Familiarity breeds expectations of success. The most widely owned wearable among our respondents was fitness bands (37 percent of respondents). Perhaps not coincidentally, our respondents felt fitness wearables would perform best among all the categories over the next five years.

Disclosure: Fitbit is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of Gigaom. Om Malik, founder of Gigaom, is also a venture partner at True.

Thumbnail image courtesy of flickr user Hosam Al-Hwid.

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Michael Wolf

Chief Analyst NextMarket Insights

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