According to the market tracking firm IHS Technology, worldwide shipments of sensors and related components for wearable devices is forecast to grow from 67 million units last year to 466 million units in 2019. This nearly seven-fold increase in demand is driven by the rapid growth in the wearable technology market. And since more and more of these devices will include more and more features and functions, the sensor market is expected to increase much faster than the wearable device market itself. This is similar to what happened to the smartphone camera market; adding a backward-facing camera in addition to a front-facing camera effectively doubled the demand for camera modules for smartphones overnight.
“The main factor propelling this phenomenon is a transition in market share away from simple products like pedometers and toward more sophisticated multipurpose devices such as smartwatches and smartglasses,” according to IHS director and senior analyst Jérémie Bouchaud. “Instead of using a single sensor like the simpler devices, the more complex products employ numerous components for health and activity monitoring, as well as for their more advanced user interfaces.”
In addition to the traditional accelerometer, gyroscopes, proximity sensors, and microphones, new features require new sensors to monitor heart beats, blood pressure, blood oxygenation levels, breathing rate, skin temperature, and even blood sugar levels. As these new products are released, manufacturers will be watching closely to see which ones are favored by the buyers. Given the American consumer’s propensity to buy the device with the most features, as seen in markets ranging from smartphones to automobiles, I expect that “one with everything” will likely be the winning combination.