The latest research estimates that up to 485 million devices will be shipped every year by 2018 and that the excitement generated by Google and the rumors surrounding Apple will help push wearable technology firmly into the mainstream.
Hot on the heels of the latest publicity video for Google's Glass augmented reality headset, comes a report from ABI Research that claims the search company's glasses and the much-rumored Apple smartwatch will help drive the emerging wearable technology market into the mainstream before the end of the decade.
Isabelle Olsson, lead designer of Google's Project Glass, talks about the design of the Google Glass during the keynote at Google's annual developer conference, Google I/O, in San Francisco. Photo: AFP/Kimihiro Hoshino
"The furor about wearable technologies, particularly smart watches and smart glasses is unsurprising," says Josh Flood, senior analyst at ABI Research. "Both technologies are very stimulating and some of the applications for the device are rather inspiring. Apple's curved glass-based watch could prove to be a revelation in the wearable technologies market. 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."
A Google employee wears Glass at Google's Developers Conference in San Francisco, California. AFP
Wearable technology is still in its emerging stages although it is building a committed consumer base in sports and fitness where activity and health-tracking devices, such as Nike's FuelBand and the Jawbone Up are helping consumers track the distances they run, the number of calories they digest and even how well they are sleeping.
Seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong attends the unveiling of the NIKE+ FuelBand at Highline Stages. Neilson Barnard/Getty Images/AFP
ABI estimates that 61% of the current wearable technology market is in sport and activity trackers but as smartphone-compatible smartwatches start to become more prevalent, there will be a shift in the market.
As such, next week's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona will focus heavily on wearable technology and connectivity and ways of using different wearable technology products on the same data platforms to combine data or services.
ABI believes that as well as being desirable products and as well as replicating a number of smartphone functions, that smartwatches will be able to offer new forms of interaction, such as for operating light switches and locking and unlocking doors and that it is this increased control and functionality that is going to help drive the global market to some 485 million devices a year by 2018.