Wearable mHealth device shipments to hit 30 million by year's end

Fueled by the proliferation of smartphones with Bluetooth Smart Ready connectivity, such as Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy III, 2012 marked a watershed year with the shipment of nearly 30 million wearable wireless mHealth devices, an increase of 37 percent over last year's shipments, according to New York-based technology market research firm ABI Research. Such a trend is expected to continue in the market for these devices, which are slated to grow at a compound annual rate of nearly 40 percent between 2011 and 2017.

During 2012, wearable wireless sports and wireless vendors, such as Polar, Garmin, Nike, and Adidas, expanded their sensor offerings, and a host of start-ups came to market with their own new products, according to ABI. For instance, San Francisco-based startup Misfit Wearables is poised to make a dent in the fitness app marketplace with Shine, touted as one of the world's thinnest wireless activity trackers.

"The ability to communicate with ultra-low power from a wearable device to smartphones and on to Internet applications using the phone as a gateway is driving a wave on innovation and investment," said Jonathan Collins, principal analyst at ABI. "Already underway and increasingly so over the next five years, devices will move from the traditional heart rate monitoring unit to embrace multiple device designs to measure range body parameters that will inform individuals, service providers and more."

Several recent reports have come out with their own potential estimates for the wearable mHealth device market. According to a report published in October by Juniper research, the wearable device market is expected to be worth $1.5 billion by 2014. The report argues that the rapid growth in sensors like Shine, component and system integration, and next generation wireless technologies and mobile devices continue to drive the market.

In August, IMS Research argued that by 2016, the global market for wearable technology will triple to $6 billion, and that device sales will grow to between 39 million and 171 million by 2016. Meanwhile, a market study from July from GigaOM Pro projected that the global market for clothing and accessories with embedded health-monitoring gadgets such as heart rate monitors and running speed sensors is expected to grow to 170 million devices by 2017.

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