While wearables primarily are buckled to consumers' wrists at this point, they'll soon find a new home: the ear, says Craig Stires, associate vice president for big data, software and analytics at IDC Asia Pacific. And they might even get a new moniker: hearables.
"There's some interesting information you can capture through the ear," Stires tells CNBC. "We've been looking at things like wrist wearables, but the ear can capture things like oxygen levels, electrocardiograms, and body temperature."
U.K.-based Wifore Consulting expects mHealth hearable technology to be a $5 billion industry within three years, reports CNBC, which notes the new tech will mesh into users' daily routines as part of a "synched lifestyle." Adoption will be rapid due to ease of use consumers already enjoy with ear buds, and the social acceptance of using such tools in public places.
Wearables, such as smart watches and fitness bands, have caught on fast for the same reasons and also due to price reductions as more choices hit the shelves, Johan Svanberg, Berg Insight senior analyst, tells FierceMobileHealthcare in an email.
"People will therefore own multiple dedicated wearables, as well as wearables with multi-functionality," Svanberg says. Berg cites fitness and activity trackers as the largest product category within wearable tech, a market segment enjoying robust growth with 19 million wearables sold this year and boasting a 54.7 annual growth rate.
The form factor of mHealth wearables is very likely to change, with some expecting it to morph into a smartphone device as smartphone makers are increasingly building the same features and capabilities into handsets.
The first hearable in-ear wearable device, according to CNBC, comes from German devicemaker Bragi, which describes its product as a "really small computer that sits in your ear," and entertains the user, tracks movements, blood flow, respiration, blood pressure and heart rate.
In terms of hearable tech innovators, IDC predicts Apple will very likely be a big name.
"With Apple's $3.2 billion acquisition of Beats, I think we're going to see Apple release some pretty interesting audible next year," Stires tells CNBC.
For more information:
- read the CNBC report