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Wearable computing @ CES 2014

Angela McIntyre, research director at Gartner, has confirmed that digital health and fitness will be one of the hottest segments at CES 2014 – with 40 percent of exhibitor floor space expanded for the lucrative segment.

“We expect to see some updates and innovation in wearable cameras, smart glasses, smart watches and headsets. We will see a range of styles and functionality for smart watches as companies experiment with designs that appeal to different potential market segments,” McIntyre explained.

“[Meanwhile], headsets can determine where we are looking, a feature that will be utilized by apps for personal navigation, and by virtual personal assistants to help with in-store shopping. Headsets that read brain waves (EEG) will be used to help improve concentration, serve as controllers for toys, and adjust music according to our moods.”

McIntyre emphasized that despite some of the inevitable hype surrounding wearables, the segments for fitness and personal health devices have been among the first to gain traction.

“Wearable electronics has its strongest consumer base among fitness enthusiasts and wider consumer interest in these devices is leading to broader adoption. The worldwide revenue from wearable electronic devices, apps and services for fitness and personal health is anticipated to be $1.6 billion this year, increasing to $5 billion by 2016,” said McIntyre.

“Wearables support the ‘quantified self’ trend of people tracking their vital signs, activities, and capturing images of what they experience during the day. The fun of wearing and using gadgets to track fitness and health is appealing, and so is using their apps and services. Gamification enables wearers to compete against themselves or others and rewards wearers. Online communities provide camaraderie with those having similar goals. Wearable electronics provide new motivation to consumers for improving fitness and health.”

The analyst also noted that fitness and health devices are mostly composed of activity monitors, pedometers and consumer heart-rate monitors. They may take the form of a fob or wristband, or embedded in a wrist watch, in clothing or in wearable accessories, such as shoes, hats and chest straps.

“At CES, we will see athletic shirts with sensors woven in to track heart rate and respiration during training and competitions. Smart undershirts for infants will monitor their heart rate, breathing and sleep,” she continued.

“Wearable devices for home health monitoring of the elderly will include clothing and accessories, such as wristbands that can track heart rate, monitor activity level during the day, detect falls, provide location information and send alerts to caregivers. With wearable technology, the elderly may to continue to live independently with reduced risk to their health and personal safety.”

Last, but certainly not least, McIntyre points out that consumers will want to know how easily their wearable devices communicate with each other, peripheral computing devices and multiple screens.

“Data will be integrated from more than one wearable device to provide useful information and insights about fitness and health to the wearer. Personal identification, biometric information and payment systems can be linked through wearable devices. Wearers can be admitted to events, access health records, and make purchases, through their wearable devices,” the analyst concluded.