What does the future hold for the multi-billion-dollar wearables industry? AI-powered text data mining analysis offers exceptional market intelligence to consider this question in-depth.

Exploring the global wearables market, we used the Quid product to analyze news, companies and patents to assess top narratives, trends, and innovations that are driving consumer interest and company investments.

What did we learn? Although still dominated by it, the market is no longer defined by smartwatches and fitness bands. We found significant conversation spanning a variety of areas – ranging from fitness and medical devices to pet wearables, workplace safety, location-positioning technology and war.

We’ll start with a look at the news and blogs shared in the first quarter of 2020, as there’s that much conversation around it to warrant filtering finely to capture timely trends. And we’ll explore a few of the buckets in turn, as there are many moving parts in the wearables technology sector, with each made up of equal parts ‘somewhat anticipated advances’ and ‘niche segments that are mind blowing.’

And please note, this report will not delve deeply into each section, as we could create a complex analysis of each cluster listed, but will provide a solid overview, as well as highlight some potential analyses users could perform in the Quid product. If you reach out for a demo, we’re happy to explore any of these areas/analyses further with you or create a text data mining analysis that fits your specific needs to showcase how the process works.

Each cluster has driven a significant level of news coverage and/or consumer engagement to warrant inclusion in this market snapshot and will be useful intel to those businesses inhabiting named/related verticals. It will also be useful to those that are even peripherally associated, as these conversations are both woven together and expansive, touching many parts of consumers’ everyday lives.

The key takeaway here is this: consumer and market intelligence discoveries are ripe for the taking with the right qualitative analysis software working overtime for you. Let’s dig in!

The Wearables World

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There has been an influx of innovation – and an influx of investment – in the wearables space. Overall, wearable technology is on the rise. “Global shipments of wearable devices grew a whopping 82% in the fourth quarter of 2019, reaching 119 million units, according to the latest forecast by the International Data Corporation (IDC). [And] for the entire year, 337 million wearable devices shipped, an increase of 89% from 2018.”

As a result, more consumers will be wearing smart- and/or IoT-connected technology in the coming year for a variety of purposes. And be sure to not lump the two concepts together though, as the difference between smart connected and IoT products is something to note.

A smart product offers interconnectivity between devices, but an IoT product is much more advanced. Much like Next Generation AI analytics is very different from its predecessors, an IoT product is very different from a smart-connected one. For example, a smart connected dryer is one you can control remotely from your phone, but “the value proposition of an IoT clothes dryer could be to dry clothes as cost effectively as possible.” There is a much higher level of processing at play.

And beyond the smart/IoT disconnect, another important bit of insight that is not readily apparent as we discuss wearables is around “hearables.” A huge portion of market growth, attributed to giants like Apple, is focused on “hearables.”

Hearables, an Important Wearables Offshoot

Defined as “the wearables that hang on or plug into the ear,” hearables grew 251% from the previous year. From a market domination standpoint, Apple is well positioned here and its stock is soaring thanks, in part, to its hearables advances, namely its AirPods and Beats headphones – that “bring in the big hardware dollars.”

You’ll note that hearables do not have its own category in our Network Map above though. And that is because it spans much of what you see segmented.

In the Quid product, we can search our clusters for a given term and see where it “lives.” Doing so, we can see hearables are found in most clusters. And we can see the specific articles referenced, as well as click through to each source for further exploration:

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So, looping back to the overall market intel report, according to 3,756 global news articles analyzed by Quid around the future of wearables, we have lots beyond hearables to explore.

Text Data Mining Categories

Healthcare and medical devices captured the largest portion of our wearables text data mining narrative, after watches of course. And we can see the rest of the categories laid out in a bar chart below, for easy reference around this market intelligence.

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We’ll explore some insight from each and will want to make sure we spend time with less mentioned, easily overlooked, but incredibly timely discoveries as we go. These are things that may not have the most stories published about them but register pretty solidly with consumers on a social engagement/sentiment measure – and offer potential for white space discoveries. In fact, this is where we’ll start our exploration of this text data mining analysis.

Consumer Engagement & Sentiment Around Wearables

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As we explore the scatterplot of conversational clusters aggregated into 14 clusters, colored by sentiment, we can see both the “published count” (shared by media) and the “social engagement” (shared by consumers) forming the backbone of this bit of market intelligence

In the Quid product, the Scatterplot view gives you the option to log or de-log your axes – to create an absolute or relative perspective on the data. The data above is logged for the social engagement sum to give a better sense of how each cluster registers in relation to others with consumers. The published count is not, as it really just spread out the graph, making it wider/smaller.

The consumer share count is very high for both watches, which everyone loves, and renewables, which people appear to love more than the market does. Though . . . do they? With sentiment hovering fairly neutral, the conversation is decidedly indecisive, though optimistic.

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Watches, inexorably associated with Sports & Fitness technology, are both capturing conversation and consumers’ attention with equal ‘somewhat excitement’ in their own categories. But the advances each offer (watches and fitness), intersect with many other wearables clusters, from Sensors to Health & Medical advances. And although inspiring, they are also somewhat terrifying to consumers, so that could be affecting the overall sentiment shared.

Because although each of these areas offer progressively amazing technology – and possibilities, there are privacy concerns that drive down the mean sentiment score, which is an important measure to keep in mind when considering ways to message out to the general public. If one explored only the most common sentiment shared on each, the picture is amazingly, deceptively cheery, with each cluster coming in as bright green.

Though, maybe that’s the way to look at it, as the potential is amazing.

Wearable Sensors

With MEMS (micro-electromechanical system) available, there’s lots of potential for data capture. MEMS are miniature machines that have both mechanical and electronic components and can range from several millimeters to less than one micrometer, which is many times smaller than the width of a human hair.

And this can make activities like “lifelogging” that much more accessible to those wanting to automatically and continuously share their lives from a first-person perspective on their travelogues. [And] “wearable lifelogging cameras are synonymous with Sousveillance which refers to visual monitoring, studying, and analyzing actions from the first-person perspective.”

With such personal info being harnessed and shared, security is top-of-mind as well, fueling growth in blockchain technology that extends well beyond payment considerations to span healthcare and every conceivable wearable usage.

And regardless of the fine print, the future of wearables is strong, and the investment dollars are certainly there. Let’s take a quick spin through some of the other clusters discovered in our text data mining analysis to see why.

Smartwatches

According to a Pew Research Center study, “college-educated people and people who make over $75,000 a year are more likely to wear smartwatches” – and these folks are typically very into fitness. But smartwatches aren’t only for fitness. They are the wearable of choice, found in every category cluster listed – dominating each even, as we can see from the highlighted portions below:

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And newer smartwatch models are consumers’ everything. They’re waterproof, track indoor and outdoor activity, and can monitor sleep while also detecting heart rhythm irregularities. They’re multifunctional as a rule, if they’re worth their salt. And those functions are consistently leveling up to suit the needs of triathletes. Because even though few are triathletes that require these advanced functions – they still want them.

Take Fitbit’s latest release (its first since its acquisition by Google) – the Charge 4. It has “20-something exercise modes and seven GPS-specific modes for activities like outdoor hiking, running, and walking.” Probably a bit of overkill, but features are the name of the wearables game. And that’s market intel that every manufacturer seems to be aware of.

Beyond Watches to Other Wearables

There are other key products beyond watches in each category, of course. Wearable gear for everything from gamers to athletes is another solid contender. We see Adidas combining the two categories, creating insoles for fitness that are equally next level and connected with a gaming element baked in:

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Adidas’ wearable technology “GMR” (pronounced gamer) is an electronic insole that uses Google Jacquard technology to track players’ speed, distance, shot power and passes. The data collected by the insole is then synced directly to the user’s FIFA Mobile team.” Players can compete via leaderboard, while performing strenuous (as they choose) physical activity.

Moving from one extreme to the next, a large part of the fitness conversation straddles healthcare. And the rising geriatric population is increasingly fitness-minded to both alleviate chronic illness and to prolong life.

There are sensors to detect low glucose levels and capture patient experiences to better monitor conditions. Others that are being used to help overcome addiction and monitor emotional well-being. And there are even ingestible sensors being used for diagnosis, patient monitoring and drug delivery applications, as well as an expanding wearable patch market.

The whole things has a scifi-esque tinge to it, but it’s much closer to reality than many think.

And they’re even revolutionizing the world of sports betting, with “cameras, sensors and wearable technology that can be used to back-up the referee with accuracy and precision. Sporting events across the board are benefiting from these advancements in technology, as are betting sites and online bookmakers.”

It’s a level of accuracy and precision that is being applied in a number of ways. And, as an aside, one of those ways is found in “Soft Robotics.” In this subfield, robots are “constructed from extremely acquiescent equipment, similar to those established in alive organisms. It draws heavily from the way in which living organisms move and adapt to their surroundings . . . [allowing] for increased suppleness and adaptability for accomplishing tasks, as well as improved safety when working around humans.”

Not really a wearable there, but an example of the many applications wearable technology is informing as it advances. And why we see so many interesting patents in the space from a Who’s Who of companies. We’ll start with the companies.

Wearable Patents & Companies Capturing the Conversation

The buckets that 3,774 companies analyzed fall in for categorization (how they define their offerings vs what we see shared in news and blogs) shows an even larger expanded view of the market. These companies have received $32.2B in funding:

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Taking all of above into account, and viewing through the lens of our News/Blogs articles, it’s easy to see why wrist-worn devices captured 44% of the entire market. And why the companies dominating each area are mostly a Who’s Who of top technology firms. APAC is a cluster of technology companies in the Asia Pacific Region, but the rest are individual entities.

·      Apple led the market with 43 million units shipped in the last quarter, for annual growth of 120%.

·      Samsung wearables shipments, most notably the Galaxy Active and Active 2 smartwatches, reached 11 million units, for annual growth of 128%.

·      Fitbit, moving to Google ownership, saw shipments grow for the first time following two years of declining volume.

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“The market for wearables is quickly becoming very top heavy as companies such as Apple and Samsung capture a greater share of the market,” stated Jitesh Ubrani, research manager for the IDC mobile device tracker. “While these giants put pressure on the rest of the market, there continues to be plenty of innovation and differentiation amongst the smaller brands and this long tail of the market will carry on for the foreseeable future.”

But – where did they receive/direct the most investment dollars?

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And it’s interesting to note, that although “VR, AR and Mixed Reality” is not the top category by company view, overall – when we look at companies founded from 2010 through today, we see significant investment dollars directed toward this ever-evolving trend – and we can also see, by whom:

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And who are these investors/acquirers? The industries they represent are in line with the categories we see companies define themselves in above:

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And finally – the patents! From March of 2019, to March of 2020, there have been 1,912 wearable patents filed, with a focus on intelligent wearables across the board. And a good bit of gaming/threat detection – which is another area that brands could hone in on in a variety of ways.

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Which companies are making patent waves? Our Top 5 may be surprising, as Apple isn’t in it! What could that mean? We would be happy to walk you through it all during a demo! Our text data mining capabilities deserve a personalized tour to kick those market intelligence tires, after all.

When it comes to building a better product strategy, brands need an informed understanding of the changing market landscape and the technological innovations that will shape an industry’s focus going forward, with wearables bound to shift all of them at some point.  Be sure to build comprehensive text data mining analysis into your brands process. We’re happy to show you how!

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