Wearables will either be invisible or fashion items in future, says executive

Wearables Technology (WT) CEO Christian Stammel said future wearable devices will either be products that consumers want the world to see, or be completely concealed.

Speaking at the Huawei Innovation Day in Munich on Tuesday, Stammel said he believes that "in future we will only have fashionable or invisible items" as the category of wearable devices moves from the early adopter phase through the "early majority phase" and beyond. He said he expects to see the category ramp up in 2015 and 2016.

Defining wearables as every kind of sensor worn close to, or on, the body and part of the Internet of Things (IoT), Stammel said he sees huge opportunities ahead for "wristable" devices such as smart watches and fitness bands. The average smartphone owner looks at his or her smartphone 150 times a day: "It's much easier to look at your wrist," he said.

The "invisible" category, meanwhile, includes patches that lie directly on the skin in order to relieve pain or supply prescribed medications, for example.

Huawei also reiterated its support of wearables during the event. Yang Yong, VP of product management for mobile broadband and home product line, said the Chinese vendor estimates the market will reach around $60 billion (€53.2 billion) in 2017.

Yang also stressed that wearables such as smart watches should be attractive devices that people will want to wear. Huawei itself--which has already launched a smart watch and two TalkBands--is now placing an enhanced focus on aesthetics at its research centre in Paris, employing fashion designers and others to help with future designs. At the same time, comfort is also a major concern because these are devices that people will wear for up to 24 hours a day.

One aspect that still remains unclear is the role that mobile operators will play in the wearables market. Gartner research director Annette Zimmermann predicted that the connected smart watch will not be a huge market for at least the next five years, partly because of the burden that wireless connectivity places on battery life.

Gartner projects that the wearable will remain an add-on device for at least the next five years, with the smartphone continuing to function as the most personal device. However, Zimmermann noted that the smart watch could start to play a role as a controller for the smart home in the coming two years, in parallel with the smartphone.

Overall, Gartner predicts that the total wearables market will reach around 220 million units in 2015, rising to 515 million by 2020. That includes smart watches, sports watches, wristband, other fitness trackers, smart garments, head mounted displays and wearable cameras, Bluetooth headsets and chest straps for running.

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