Hearables: the next big thing in wearables, says Juniper Research

Specialised fitness wearables integrated into clothing and ear-based “hearables” will grow from an expected 4.5 million shipped this year to nearly 30 million in 2022, according to Juniper Research.

This is an increase of more than 550 per cent, while by contrast, conventional activity tracker shipments will grow by only 20 per cent in that time.

Hearables or smart headphones are defined by Wikipedia as “technically advanced, electronic in-ear-devices designed for multiple purposes ranging from wireless transmission to communication objectives, medical monitoring and fitness tracking”.

In its report Health & Fitness Wearables: Vendor Strategies, Trends & Forecasts 2018-2022, Jupiter says that as growth in basic trackers has slowed, session‑specific wearables, such as those monitoring gym or training sessions, have multiplied. Devices from companies like Atlas, Gymwatch, Jabra, Sensoria and Under Armour provide more granular metrics.

It found that as detailed metrics become widespread among all vendors, lifestyle tracking leaders such as Fitbit and Huami will decline in market share. Combined, these players will account for 28 per cent of total fitness wearable shipments by 2022, down from more than 40 per cent last year.

Data is now the key battleground for fitness wearables, says the report. Thanks to initiatives like Suunto’s Movesense platform, data will ultimately become device-agnostic. However, because of a lack of consumer interest, Juniper expects fitness software and services revenues to stay under $200 million a year over the next four years.

Despite the promise of wearables in healthcare, little specialised hardware is available, with fitness wearables being adapted for such purposes. Juniper expects healthcare wearables to make up less than a third of all of the sector’s devices in use by 2022, as regulation slows roll-outs and keeps prices high.

“Healthcare use has long been the goal of many wearables manufacturers,” says research author James Moar. “However, more research needs to be done on activity tracking in order to make typical wearable data clinically meaningful to healthcare professionals.”

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