​Wearables have biggest year since 2015 – but there's a big change on the horizon

Health explosion is on its way
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Wearable tech has had its biggest year since the dizzy heights of 2015, but the wearables and smartwatch market could be set to have a record breaking explosion.

The latest research by IDTechEx predicts that the fast-tracking of pandemic-fighting tech by regulatory bodies such as the FDA could see an explosion of powerful, health focused devices.

The report shows that in 2019, wearables grew 19% year on year in 2017 and totalled $70bn in sales.

It puts this down to the rise of wireless headphones and hearables, such as the Apple AirPods and the array of spin-off devices hitting the market. These generated $4bn extra from 2018.

“The other strongest growth came from device categories such as smartwatches and continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) devices, which grew by just under $4bn and $1.3bn respectively relative to 2018 values.

“This represents the largest one-year growth rate since peak wearables hype in 2015 (a year which saw the commercial launches of leading devices such as the Apple Watch), which emphasises the growing strength in the sector and the continuing opportunity for new development and growth,” read the report.

But the IDTechEx report believes that while the pandemic will naturally affect 2020’s growth, it could be a big opportunity to advance wearable tech.

“Many products involved in pandemic countermeasures have been fast-tracked to FDA approvals. Regulatory barriers are critical challenges for many players, from new start-ups to global leaders, and changes to them can shift the dynamic immediately,” said the report.

And a big part of this is what IDTechEx calls the growth of the “potentially” medical device.

Medical devices have been slow to be certified by the FDA, which means when the likes of Samsung and Fitbit launch ECG and sleep apnea features they come with disclaimers to use the results as a conversation with your doctor, but not to rely on the results themselves.

"Potentially medical" products are categories where sensing capabilities more traditionally associated with medical devices have been introduced in consumer products, which could potentially see some reclassification within the boundaries of medical products further into the future.

“This is not likely to happen quickly, but this is a significant trend which should not be ignored.”

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James Stables


James is the co-founder of Wareable, and he has been a technology journalist for 15 years.

He started his career at Future Publishing, James became the features editor of T3 Magazine and T3.com and was a regular contributor to TechRadar – before leaving Future Publishing to found Wareable in 2014.

James has been at the helm of Wareable since 2014 and has become one of the leading experts in wearable technologies globally. He has reviewed, tested, and covered pretty much every wearable on the market, and is passionate about the evolving industry, and wearables helping people achieve healthier and happier lives.

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