The market for wearable technology -- such as Google Glass, the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch or FitBit, a wearable fitness device -- is poised to explode over the next few years, according to a recent report from Swedish telecom market researcher Berg Insight. By 2017, companies will ship more than 64 million wearable technology devices. That includes 35 million smartwatches, a significant bump from the 400,000 that are expected to be sold this year.
According to Nitin Bhas, a senior analyst at U.K.-based Juniper Research, 2014 will be "the watershed year for wearables" in terms of roll outs and market traction.
"The industry as a whole now acknowledges wearable computing as the next big thing and players ranging from chipset manufacturers to handset vendors are developing products within the wearable segment," Bhas says. The entry of Google Glass and Samsung's smartwatch, along with rumored products coming from Apple and Microsoft, validates this segment and indicates the future market opportunity for wearables, he says.
"It's crazy cool that wearables are at the front of tech right now," says Eric Migicovsky, founder of Pebble Technology, the company behind Pebble, a device that looks like a watch and syncs up with a user's smartphone to alert him or her to incoming messages and calls when carrying a phone isn't possible. Crowdfunded on Kickstarter last year, Pebble raised more than $10 million -- the most successful Kickstarter project to date.
"When I was a kid, my favorite magazine was one called Pen Computing, all about Palm Pilots and the Newton and stuff like that," Migicovsky says. "Reading that magazine I could never have predicted that wearables would become the future of tech."
While the wearables market is growing, it has a lot of catching up to do to become as mainstream as, say, smartphones. Sales of smartphones this year are predicted to reach about 1 billion, according to Stamford, Conn.-based research firm Gartner.
"It's all about fitting into and improving a person's lifestyle," Migicovsky says. "No matter the technology, if you can do that then you have something."