Hope springs eternal for wearables, despite the gizmos losing billions of dollars over the past five years. And few forecasts can be more hopeful than Gartner's prediction that the market will treble in size over the next three years.
Gartner places its faith in two things. One in "hearables," earpieces with added functionality, such as Google's Pixel Buds that perform language translation, hearing aids that monitor your health, or pretty much anything with sufficient local processing to power an AI assistant.
And Smart Clothing, a perpetual Next Big Thing also predicted to make an impact on the market. A year ago, CCS Insight confidently told us:
"In 2018, smart sports shoes sell 1 million pairs to become the first mass-market smart clothing. Premium sports brands include sensors in their high-end footwear ranges that measure wearers' activity and performance. Sales rapidly increase to reach 5 million pairs in 2020."
Google has an initiative unfortunately titled Project Jacquard which it touts as "the first full scale digital platform created for smart clothing". Despite signing a partnership with Levi, this space seems quiet. But perhaps we're missing something. Do you know anyone with Smart Clothing? Are you the an owner of a pair of $300 Bluetooth-enabled yoga pants? If so, write and tell us.
The smartwatch market has really boiled down to three segments: one is Apple, one is Samsung – both now firmly activity-focused – and the third is activity trackers from respectable brands like Fitbit and Garmin that have been packed into something watch-shaped. Huawei's recent £179 device – built using its lightweight IoT open source LiteOS – falls into this category, looking like a smartwatch but offering 14 days of continuous health monitoring on one charge.
Gartner's predictions are beginning to be enjoyed by readers for all the wrong reasons. In 2014 Gartner foresaw, through its subsidiary outfit L2, that 50 per cent of all human-computer interaction would take place via wearables – a claim repeated by former Intel CEO Brian Krzanich (who he? – Ed).
And you particularly seem to enjoy hypes that disappear: machine learning, edge computing and knowledge graphs all vanished in August. We'll have to wait and see whether "smart-athleisureware" ever crawls onto Gartner's Doom Cycle, before falling off again.
For what it's worth, Gartner has predicted the wearables market will swell to 178 million units in 2018, up 27 per cent year-on-year, and reach 225 million by 2019 and 453 million by 2022. ®