Billions of consumers forecast to buy wearables, in-home devices over the next five years

Consumer demand for both wearables and in-home devices equipped with sensor nodes and wireless links is expected to ramp up substantially throughout the rest of this decade, expanding the reach of the so-called Internet of Things (IoT), according to separate reports from ABI Research and Accenture Interactive's Acquity Group.

ABI is predicting that the global installed base of active wireless connected devices will exceed 16 billion in 2014, or about 20 percent more than in 2013. Moreover, the installed-device base will more than double over current levels, reaching 40.9 billion in 2020.

"If we look at this year's installed base, smartphones, PCs and other 'hub' devices represent still 44 percent of the active total, but by end-2020 their share is set to drop to 32 percent," said Aapo Markkanen, an ABI principal analyst. "In other words, 75 percent of the growth between today and the end of the decade will come from non-hub devices: sensor nodes and accessories."

Similarly, an IoT study conducted by Acquity Group, now part of Accenture Interactive, revealed that 69 percent of U.S. consumers intend to buy an in-home connected device in the next five years. Acquity surveyed more than 2,000 consumers across the United States for the study.

"By the end of next year, a total of about 13 percent of consumers will own an in-home IoT device such as a thermostat or in-home security camera," Aquity said. "Currently, only about 4 percent of those surveyed own such a device." The firm noted that 53 percent of millennials (ages 18-25) said they will buy an in-home IoT technology device in the next five years, compared with 32 percent of baby boomers (over the age of 45).
The firm said adoption of wearable IoT technology, such as smart watches and fitness devices, should also gradually increase, with nearly half of U.S. consumers already owning or planning to buy a device in this category in the next five years. "Wearable fitness devices will generate the most mass consumer adoption in the next year, with 22 percent of consumers already owning or planning to make a purchase by 2015," Acquity said.

More than twice as many men (19 percent) as women (8 percent) reported having heard of IoT. The Acquity study indicated that men are slightly ahead of women on the adoption curve and are more likely to self-identify as early adopters.

IoT ownership will extend from tech-savvy consumers to late adopters over the next five years, with both planning to buy wearable and in-home IoT devices by 2019. "Our data reveals that it's not only tech enthusiasts who are interested in these kinds of products, but late adopters who also express interest in buying them," said Jay Dettling, Acquity's president.

As adoption of IoT evolves over the years, so too will the wireless technologies underlying it. Although cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ZigBee and others are in use today, changes are afoot.

For example, Dan Shey, an ABI practice director, noted that the Thread protocol, spearheaded by Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Nest Labs, "is not only setting the bar higher for ZigBee in the 802.15.4 space, but also piling up pressure on Bluetooth suppliers to enable mesh networking."

In addition, he said initiatives such as the one for LTE machine-type communications (MTC) may expand the market for cellular-based machine-to-machine communications (M2M), while startups such as Electric Imp and Spark could boost Wi-Fi's role in M2M as well.

Shey noted that passive, proximity-based connectivity is offered by radio-frequency identification (RFID) and near-field communications (NFC). "Thinfilm's plans with printed electronics warrant attention," he added. Thinfilm contends that printed electronic objects can become part of IoT networks via NFC.

For more:
- see this ABI release
- see this Accenture/Aquity release

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