FitBit’s IPO has been one of the big stories in the wearables market in recent months. The company’s debut in June at $20 per share on the New York Stock Exchange was followed by strong initial performance valuing the company at over $4bn. And in a sure sign that there’s value in the market, rival Jawbone fired the opening rounds in a battle over patents in the wearables space.
Of all the new names in the wearables market, these two at least are probably with us to stay: but elsewhere it’s not so easy to pick winners – as a recent post in EETimes highlighted. The site’s Silicon Valley Bureau Chief Rick Merritt pulled some interesting facts from a Consumer Electronics Association report and concluded that while wearables are undoubtedly the fastest-growing area in consumer electronics, the sector remains fragmented and hard to read.
Part of the challenge of crystal-ball-gazing like this actually lays in the sector’s diversity: the broad term “wearable technology” covers products aimed at customers ranging from pet owners and children, to extreme sports enthusiasts and the elderly.
So when people write about “uncertainty” in the wearables market, it’s best to remember that the flipside of that is diversity: and in most ecosystems, diversity means strength. That’s why the wearables market has been experiencing healthy growth, doubling year on year since 2011 according to the CEA: albeit from a low base at that time of $240 million. Merritt quotes the CEA’s expectations for 2016 in the region of $6 billion, of which nearly a third will be accounted for by fitness monitors.
And, lest we forget, the name of the product category we’re talking about is “wearable technology”. It’s a technology, not really a market: fitness monitors don’t belong in the same class as pet locators.
From the point of view of those of us involved in making the enabling technology behind all this, this is the positive news: because despite the uncertainty about exactly which companies and applications will succeed, there’s no doubt that wearable technology is taking off. There’s healthy demand for ultra-low-power microcontrollers like Ambiq’s Apollo range of devices; battery technology is advancing significantly; and the Internet technologies through which all of these products will be connected is becoming better defined.
After a period of confusing market predictions, things seem to be settling down for wearable technology: there may be more moments of “quantum leap innovation” like Ambiq’s SPOT technology; there may be market corrections (up and down). But some clarity is emerging. We can be sure that wearables are here to stay.