90 million wearable devices to ship in 2014

Driven by the growth of sports, fitness and health applications, 90 million wearable computing devices will be shipped this year, according to an announcement from ABI Research. Though the commercial launch of several smart glass products, including Google Glass, will continue to spark interest in the wearable device category, the firm predicts that it will not be a significant commercial success in 2014.

Medical, wellness and sports and activity wearable devices will provide the bulk of wearable device shipments this year. The firm believes that activity trackers will continue to be the most popular wearable devices as people concerned with weight management use them to monitor their activity levels and energy output.

"The next twelve months will be a critical period for the acceptance and adoption of wearable devices," says ABI Research analyst Joshua Flood in a written statement. "Healthcare and sports and activity trackers are rapidly becoming mass-market products. On the flip side, wearable devices like smart watches need to overcome some critical obstacles.

"Aesthetic design, more compelling use cases, battery life and lower price points are the main inhibitors. How vendors approach these challenges and their respective solutions will affect the wearable market far in the future."

Consequently, smart glasses and smart watches will account for a small portion of the wearable device market in 2014, finds the firm. ABI Research projects that more than two million smart glasses will be shipped in 2014 and the category is forecast to grow rapidly from 2015 onwards.

"While smart glasses could be the starting point moving away from today's touchscreen smartphones to eyewear devices using a voice interface, pricing, battery life and style will all play crucial roles for market traction," warns the report, which expects that mobile-enabling technologies such as augmented reality will play a vital part in enhancing smart glass capabilities. "Due to these limitations, the enterprise sector will be the early target for smart glasses before they are ready for mass-market adoption."

Due to technical limitations and regulatory hurdles, it could still be years before Google Glass sees wide use in healthcare with mobile apps. Interoperability, in particular, is a stumbling block to implementing Google Glass in healthcare settings, according to Lynne Dunbrack, research vice president with IDC Health Insights. As a result, Dunbrack believes this will delay the implementation of Google Glass in clinical settings. She expects the industry won't see any commercially available Google Glass apps until the end of 2014 or later.  

To learn more:
- read the announcement