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Research: Wearables on the Rise

The number of wearable computing devices sold in the United States will triple in 2014, according to a new forecast from market researcher International Data Corporation (IDC), to top 19 million shipments.

IDC is predicting impressive growth rates for the market to continue at least into 2018, when the company says it expects the market to reach 111.9 million units sold on the strength of a 78.4 percent compound annual growth rate.

Complex accessories such as "Nike+ FuelBand, Jawbone UP and Fitbit devices" will lead the space for most of the forecast period, according to the company, "as users continue to embrace their simplicity and low price points." Devices in this category have only partial functionality on their own, as they are designed to operate fully when paired with smartphones, tablets or PCs.

"Complex accessories have succeeded in drawing much-needed interest and attention to a wearables market that has had some difficulty gaining traction," said Ramon Llamas, research manager, mobile phones, in a prepared statement. "The increased buzz has prompted more vendors to announce their intentions to enter this market. Most importantly, end-users have warmed to their simplicity in terms of design and functionality, making their value easy to understand and use."

Throughout the forecast period smart accessories, differing from complex accessories in their ability to run third-party apps, will gain ground en route to leading the space by 2018.

"While not quite ready for prime time, the smart accessory market will continue to mature as users better understand and accept the value proposition and vendors refine their offerings," according to an IDC news release.

Rounding out the market are smart wearables, which require only an Internet connection for full functionality. These devices, exemplified by Google Glass, will require "users to shift to a new user experience while offering them a robust selection of third-party applications," according to IDC. "It is not a question of 'if,' but 'when' wearables as a whole will extend into the enterprise."

Samsung, an early entrant to the space with several devices currently available, may be in good shape to set the pace in the market, as an IDC survey of 50,000 consumers representing 26 countries "identified [it] as the most trusted brand for wearables, ahead of Apple, Sony and Google," according to a news release.

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].