While some of the hype surrounding wearables technology seems to have diminished, sales are climbing, says a new report from research firm IDC.

What’s changing is the focus of the technology.

That’s good news for a growing number of Triangle firms and researchers focusing on wearables-related technology.

[MORE COVERAGE: See links with this post for 10 of the many recent stories WRAL TechWire has published about wearables technology.}

“Like any technology market, the wearables market is changing,” says Ramon Llamas, research manager for IDC’s Wearables team, in the new report. “Basic wearables started out as single-purpose devices tracking footsteps and are morphing into multi-purpose wearable devices, fusing together multiple health and fitness capabilities and smartphone notifications. It’s enough to blur the lines against most smart wearables, to the point where first generation smartwatches are no better than most fitness trackers.

“Meanwhile, smart wearables are also evolving,” Llamas continued. “Health and fitness remains a major focus, but once these devices become connected to a cellular network, expect unique applications and communications capabilities to become available. This will also solve another key issue: freeing the device from the smartphone, creating a standalone experience.”

Sales of wearable technology surged some 25 percent in 2016 with a record-high 33.9 million units being sold in the fourth quarter.

Overall, more than 102 million units were sold.

Helping drive the changes and improved sales are the industry’s “pivot” toward embracing fitness and health applications, IDC notes.

Plus, new vendors continue to enter the market.

“With the entrance of multiple new vendors with strengths in different industries, the wearables market is expected to maintain a positive outlook, though much of this growth is coming from vendor push rather than consumer demand,” said Jitesh Ubrani senior research analyst for IDC Mobile Device Trackers. “As the technology disappears into the background, hybrid watches and other fashion accessories with fitness tracking are starting to gain traction. This presents an opportunity to sell multiple wearables to a single consumer under the guise of ‘fashion.’ But more importantly, it helps build an ecosystem and helps vendors provide consumers with actionable insights thanks to the large amounts of data collected behind the scenes.”

Valencell and Validic are among the established RTP-area wearables tech players. New players include iScribes and RXDataScience.

Also, researchers at N.C. State continue to push the horizons for wearble technology.


Soon, just about anything you wear will be data-enabled.