Berg: 64 million wearables to ship by 2017, with smartwatches leading

By Jonah Comstock
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Galaxy Gear_004_combination_orange The Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch.

Consumer wearable devices -- including fitness trackers, smart glasses, and smart watches -- will have shipped 64 million units worldwide by the end of 2017, according to a new report from Berg Insight. That's up from 8.3 million in 2012 and 3.1 million in 2011, a compound annual growth rate of 50.6 percent.

Berg predicts smartwatches will eclipse fitness trackers, the current leaders in the category, to become the largest wearable segment. The report says smartwatches will make up 23 percent of the 13.8 million cellular connected consumer M2M devices that ship in 2017, while personal trackers will make up 17 percent.

"A perfect storm of innovation within low power wireless connectivity, sensor technology, big data, cloud services, voice user interfaces and mobile computing power is coming together and paves the way for connected wearable technology," Senior Analyst Johan Svanberg said in a statement. "However, today’s devices need to evolve into something more than single purpose fitness trackers or external smartphone notification centers in order to be truly successful."

There's some debate as to how the two markets -- smartwatches and activity trackers -- will shake out. Berg believes smartwatches will incorporate fitness tracking functionality, something that's already begun to happen with the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch, which includes several fitness apps, and the Pebble Smartwatch, which sports Runkeeper integration.

On the other hand, when we spoke to tracker makers like Basis CEO Jef Holove for our fitness tracking podcast, they said they weren't worried about that competition, since smartwatches mostly just relocate the smartphone experience to the wrist.

"We just don't believe the big idea for wearables is to duplicate a user experience and kind of move it around," Holove told MobiHealthNews in April. "We think the big idea for wearables is bring real incremental value from the fact that you're wearing the technology and that means the technology is in contact with your body, and, in our case we're taking advantage of that to deploy sensors that learn a lot about your body... I think smartwatches are likely to include accelerometers for sure, so they'll be able to track activity levels just like devices with accelerometers can do today, but obviously our aim is to do something much more fundamental, much more insightful than that."

In February of 2012, a report from ABI put the number of health and fitness wearables in 2017 at a much higher 174 million, although that number included 80 million medical wearables, which Berg's numbers exclude. Just this week, ABI projected that the wearable market would hit $6 billion in 2018, and that 13 million wearables would be used in the corporate wellness sector alone.