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CES Feature Articles

January 06, 2014

Consumer Electronics Show 2014 - Market Opportunities in Wearable Technologies

This week the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES (News - Alert)) will take place in Las Vegas, and the show will be awash in endless permutations of wearable technology (WT). Last week we provided a 2014 predictions and perspectives in wearable tech that strongly suggests the wearable tech market is indeed poised for major liftoff. It also strongly suggests that wearable tech taking off will not be based on the huge assortment of consumer-focused wearable devices that will be on display at CES.

Why this is important: As the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show begins this week, there is a bubble-like aura emerging around wearable technology for 2014. Yes it will be big, but why exactly? It won't be because of consumers.

That said, right on cue with CES week Accenture (News - Alert) has released a new survey, Accenture Digital Consumer Tech Survey 2014, which finds that at least 52 percent of consumers are in fact quite interested in wearable technologies. The survey also found - and this is not surprising as we noted in our predictions article - that the current primary driver for wearable tech is to be found in fitness monitors and physical tracking and personal health management. There was already a significant presence of such devices at the 2013 CES and this year promises to be the banner year for them - they will have the lion's share of prime CES exhibit space. But is this really a serious WT market or merely a consumer fad?

As always, Accenture provides a deep base of respondents for its survey and resulting research. This time around Accenture polled 6,021 consumers around the world with a direct focus on18 device categories that include fitness monitors, smart watches and Internet-connected glasses, phablets (Accenture's term in its report, and decidedly not ours), HDTVs and other tech - not all of it wearable tech but almost all of it possibly associated with WT in some form or fashion.

The survey ran in October and November 2013, across six major countries: Australia, Canada, India, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and of course the United States. Respondents ranged in age from 14 to 55 and over - a significant and appropriately wide range. In total the survey included questions on 3D TVs, 4K TVs, simple mobile phones, desktop PCs, eBook readers, GPS navigation devices, in-vehicle entertainment systems, HDTVs, home game consoles, laptop PCs, portable gaming devices, regular TVs, TV set-top box/cable boxes, smartphones, tablet PCs, and wearable devices.

The survey was wide-ranging but we'll limit our key findings focus here to wearable tech and related topics.

Among the six countries surveyed, very interestingly consumers in India were most interested in wearable technology:

  • 80 percent are interested in buying fitness monitors;
  • 76 percent are interested in smart watches;
  • 74 percent are Internet-enabled glasses.

Across all countries consumers are generally excited about the following:

  • 46 percent think smartwatches are of value;
  • 42 percent Internet-connected glasses.

Of related interest for WT (primarily because of a desire by consumers to tap into second screens - some of which will be wearable tech-driven):

  • 52 percent of consumers across all countries who plan to buy a traditional smartphone in the next year also say that they would prefer a phablet (a large screen smartphone with possibly secondary capabilities such as smart pen usage);
  • 52 percent plan to purchase a smartphone and 40 percent a tablet PC;
  • 41 percent intend to buy a HDTV and 38 percent a laptop.

The low number for laptops is hardly surprising, and our guess for HDTVs is that the number would be much higher if more consumers understood just how inexpensive LED HDTVs actually are today.

Mattias Lewren, global managing director of Accenture’s Electronics and High-Tech industry group notes that, “In the past year wearable technologies have emerged as the next big consumer electronics market category, particularly for health and wellness. To capitalize on this growth opportunity, consumer electronics companies should consider investing in wearable product innovation and industrial design, and building ecosystems that connect wearables to the broader array of interactive digital networks. Every consumer is a digital consumer, and the keen interest in wearable technology provides further evidence of that.”

That statement smartly underscores the "interconnectedness" that will eventually define wearable technology - and this interconnectedness will take place across all of the types of devices noted above. It is very interesting to also note that respondents' plans to buy multi-function devices significantly exceed the percentage that plan to acquire single-function devices:

  • 25 percent are interested in home game consoles;
  • 23 percent are interested in Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) navigation units;
  • 22 percent are interested in eBook readers.

These last three categories will no doubt sink even lower over the next year or two as more and more people discover that every one of these capabilities also exist within the technologies that make up wearable tech and related devices (smartphones, etc.).

The survey overall suggests a robust wearable tech market but one that will find its true path not in standalone devices but in integrated WT that interfaces to and with the rest of the electronic world around us. We' will only really see the beginnings of such connectedness (we could refer to this as well as the Internet of Things - IoT). The far larger WT market - the true foundation for wearable tech - will be found here. Never the less the survey, which is available for free download from Accenture, does underscore the keen interest in wearable technology that already exists. The trick will be in converting that interested from fad into real business.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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