The wearable technology industry is expected to play a larger role in the medical and health sector as a result of an ageing global population and increased adoption of the internet of things (IoT). The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated this growth and, in turn, there has been a surge in fitness trends at home, as well as an emphasis on developing a more connected healthcare system capable of continuous monitoring. GlobalData projects that the wearable technology market will increase from its value of $59bn in 2020 to $156bn by 2024, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 24.6%. For more information, see GlobalData’s Internet of Things – Thematic Research.
The smartwatches and hearables segments are the largest segments of wearables and have shown the most significant growth in the sector. From the hearables segment, Apple is the largest player, having a 36% market share last year with the release of their third-generation AirPods. Apple watches also continue to dominate the smartwatch market, with a 29% market share in Q2 2022 with their latest product, the Apple Watch Series 8.
While previous generations of smartwatches included standard sensors to measure heart rate and blood pressure and deduce sleep patterns, the newest smartwatches have more complex functionality such as fall detection using accelerometers and gyroscopes, measuring blood oxygen and echocardiogram (ECG), and even temperature sensors that claim to track ovulation cycles.
Aside from smartwatches, there are various wearable devices in development and on the market that aim to tackle seizure detection and blood glucose monitoring, as well as pain relief with those neurological diseases. As these technologies become more refined, wearable devices will play a greater role in the healthcare process.
Some obstacles to the continued growth of this sector include the lack of actionable data and accuracy of the sensors, which can be addressed by the push for research and development (R&D) to advance these technologies. Additionally, the cost of these products is another barrier that may be overcome in future by the above-mentioned advancements, thereby driving down the cost to manufacture these devices. Thirdly, most insurance plans do not offer coverage for these types of purchases though that may change in future if the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) chooses to classify wearables as medical devices and the process to get FDA-approved wearable devices can begin.
As the ageing population becomes more of a burden on the healthcare framework, products such as remote patient monitoring devices and devices using mobile health apps will become more lucrative to the average consumer. Additionally, companies will provide additional spending for R&D towards wearable technology to capitalize on that increasing demand and work to create more accurate sensors and more reliable data for medical use. As a result, the population will begin to readily adopt and learn new wearable technologies, contributing to the growth of the sector that we are seeing today.