2017 is an exciting time for wearables

Wearables could be in for an interesting few years, which could translate into an influx of new market entrants. Gartner projects wearables shipments will increase 17 percent this year and will nearly double in the period from 2016 and 2021, from 266 million units to 505 million. One Gartner analyst expected this trend to manifest at IFA 2017 in the form of devices that “pinpoint more use cases and feature new developments.”

In fact, the wearables center stage at IFA 2017 have mostly been smartwatches. This makes sense given that Gartner itself determined smartwatches “have the greatest revenue among all wearables.” The Wall Street Journal also took note of smartwatches’ new lease on life. Though the smartwatch market has so far not lived up to high expectations, “lower prices and expanded functions may convince more consumers to strap one on,” according to the WSJ.

The article goes on to talk about the large companies that will be the main beneficiaries of this market growth, most notably Apple, Fitbit, Garmin and Samsung. Smaller startups are already seeing opportunity in this market, though.

Startup Launchpad is seeing interest from startups in creating niche wearable devices, and they’re not all smartwatches. Wearables companies exhibiting with Startup Launchpad at the October Global Sources trade shows are prime examples of the new use cases to which Gartner alluded.

VivaLnk, for example, created eSkin, which is an electronic substrate that powers the company’s products Fever Scout and Vital Scout. These patches let people monitor their temperature when they’re sick or stress and physical activity.

Self-contained augmented reality and virtual reality headsets are another big growth area. Haori Mirror shows AR is getting more accessible, as well. It is the first commercially available AR headset powered by a smartphone. This has been a big hurdle for AR since VR headsets that use smartphones have been around since the days of Google Cardboard.

Another rising trend in wearables is “hearables.” One type of hearable that’s been popular early on are translating earpieces like the Misway AirBuds Translator. These earbuds use artificial intelligence to translate conversations in real time. Gartner also expects AI to aid the growth of hearables since they will allow users to rely less on their smartphone screens.

Smartwatches will also be represented at Startup Launchpad, of course. These companies are also looking to differentiate themselves in an increasingly crowded market with niche use cases. One such smartwatch comes from Noerden. It includes a UV sensor that helps users protect their skin from overexposure in the sun during outdoor activities.

These trends only touch the surface of what’s happening the wearables space. Most importantly, though, is the tremendous growth opportunity that’s opening up in this market. As the market grows, retailers and distributors may be looking for more unique devices, so polish up those elevator pitches.

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