Growth spurt ahead for wireless chips thanks to wearable demand

Increasing adoption of wearable health and fitness devices is helping to drive wireless semiconductor growth to double-digit levels this year, reveals a new IHS Technology report.

Shipments are predicted to hit 61.2 million units in 2014, an 11 percent spike from last year's 55 million, with much of that growth due to wearable fitness and exercise products requiring wireless connectivity for data collection and sharing. By 2018, shipments are expected to hit 95.8 million, according to the report.

"Because most health and fitness devices are mobile, wireless connectivity is important," Lee Ratliff, principal analyst for connectivity at HIS, said in an announcement. "And because these wireless mobile devices are in most cases also wearable and thus require a small form-factor, they cannot be power hogs and must support low-energy consumption to have the best chance of succeeding in the consumer market."

The growth is being spurred by consumer and patient demand, as well as increasing adoption by the medical professional industry. A recent Mavosky Health/Kelton survey reports that 81 percent of Americans say they would use a wearable health device.

What's more, a recent ON World report predicts the devices will create a $50 billion industry with 700 million wearable devices shipped in the global market by 2018, with hardware accounting for the majority of revenue initially. The report also predicts that smartwatches, smart glasses and personal sensors will soon beat out the popular sports and fitness mHealth devices, and will account for two-thirds of that market revenue.

The IHS report notes Bluetooth Smart is the most successful of the wearable wireless technologies because it allows even the tiniest devices to operate for years on a battery the size of a coin. It is also the lone low-power option that works with all leading mobile platforms, including iOS, Android, Windows 8 and the BlackBerry OS. The favored option for medical wearables--such as heart-rate monitors--is ANT/ANT+, which requires a PC or dongle, notes the report.

To learn more:
- read the announcement

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