Report: Healthcare will be a top market for smart clothing

Healthcare will be a top market focus for smart clothing and body sensor wearables capable of measuring biometrics and physiological data, according to a new report.

The report, published by Tractica, reveals smart clothing shipments will spike from 968,000 this year to 24.8 million by 2021. What's more, it predicts body sensor shipments will jump from 2.7 million this year to 68 million units over the same time period.

In terms of largest device category wearable patches will be most prominent, according to Tractica Research Director Aditya Kaul.

Yet despite the predicted robust growth, obstacles persist, Kaul told FierceMobileHealthcare via email. One is consumer adoption and whether top clothing brands will delve into producing smart garments.

"Smart clothing needs to broaden its appeal, looking beyond fitness enthusiasts and professional athletes, to the average consumer on the street," Kaul said. "Added functionality, like controlling your smartphone through your Gap sweatshirt might be cool to have, but whether that will be enough to propel smart clothing into the mainstream is not clear."

While body sensor technology is slowly being embraced in clinical trials, a great more focus is needed on improving data accuracy and reliability, Kaul added.

"Also, body sensors can generate a large amount of data in a short period of time, as many as 18 million data points per patient per day," he said. "This can present challenges for medical practitioners in terms of extracting the meaningful data from the noisy bits."

A similar concern was noted in a recent study regarding wearables not producing accurate results for tracking energy expenditure. Argus Insight research earlier this year noted a "significant" gap between user satisfaction with wearable devices as app makers must improve functionality to help users decipher the meaning of the data they collect through their wearable devices.

Kaul said he expects medical device companies and wearable patch makers to initially lead the market, as they are most likely to get federal agency and insurance approval.

"At the same time tech companies like Apple and Google have a good opportunity at leveraging their smartphone ecosystems to drive the market to much a bigger scale," he said. "The tech companies might end up creating a second-rung of healthcare wearable devices that aren't necessarily regulator approved, but are readily accepted by healthcare professionals and consumers."

For more information:
- here's the Tractica announcement