Is Wearable Technology Here to Stay?
While wearable technology has evolved over the years, the success rate for widespread adoption is still open for debate. Launched in 1979, the idea of being able to listen to music on the go with a Sony Walkman was entirely novel.
Though the Walkman wasn’t really wearable per se, it was portable. It was a friendlier, easier way to listen to music than say walking up and down the beach with a boom box on your shoulder.
Believe it or not, the wristwatch is still the most successfully adopted example of wearable technology. But this is 2015, and the world of wearable technology is here to stay! At least the promise of it is. Over the last 100 years, wearable technology has mostly been a slew of commercial failures. And this is something investors should keep in mind when looking at wearable technology stocks, no matter how big or flashy they are.
But that doesn’t mean wearable technology won’t be huge for investors in 2015.
Long-Term Investing Outlook for Wearable Technology Robust
In the past, the failure of wearable technology had more to do with the technology available at the time than the idea of wearable technology. Until recently, most wearable technology was like the tail fins on a ’59 Cadillac Eldorado; they looked cool, but they weren’t really all that practical and didn’t solve any unmet issues.
But the long-term outlook for wearable technology remains robust. That’s because wearable technology can now conveniently provide us with all the big data we crave; as The Who put it, “anyway, anyhow, anywhere I choose.”
According to some estimates, the global wearable technology market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 35% over the next five years (2015–2019), from 33 million units shipped in 2015 to 148 million units shipped in 2019.(1)
While Google Inc.’s (NASDAQ/GOOG) “Google Glass” attracted all of the attention last year, the smartwatch will be the leading product category this year. Smartwatch shipments are expected to rise at a CAGR of 41% between now and 2019, accounting for 59% of total wearable technology device shipments this year and 70% by 2019.(2) That leaves plenty of room for niche wearable technology like smart eyewear, clothing, and so on.
Stocks Leading in Wearable Tech Glasses
Wearable technology might be the greatest thing ever to early adapters, but the fact remains that it still has to work, serve a function, and be accessible to the masses. Case in point: Google Glass.
The portable computer hidden inside the arm of the glasses with a tiny display captured everyone’s attention when it was first unveiled as a prototype in 2012. But with a hefty price tag and fears about what it could do, Google Glass never really gained traction. On January 19 of this year, Google stopped selling Google Glass.
But that doesn’t mean Google Glass is dead. It’s just being redesigned from scratch, and it will not be released until version 2.0 is perfect!(3)
In the meantime, early adapters and investors will probably get distracted by Microsoft Corporation’s (NASDAQ/MSFT) “HoloLens” and the coming era of holographic computing. The lightweight and adjustable headgear (clunkier-looking than Google Glass) creates an augmented 3D reality and allows the wearer to interact with “three-dimensional holograms blended with your real world.”(4)
What this means is that users look through the lenses to interact with, say, a holographic television, or to play “Minecraft,” shop, work/design, and so on. For now, it could be everything Google Glass wasn’t. When it will be available is another issue altogether. Microsoft is being cagy, almost as if the company wants to keep our attention.
Then there’s Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ/FB). The company announced its plans to acquire virtual reality startup Oculus VR for $2.0 billion in March 2014.(5) The virtual reality head-set, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, “has the chance to create the most social platform ever.”
Time will tell.
Smartwatches and Other Wearable Technology Stocks
The most popular form of wearable technology for the foreseeable future is the smartwatch, with most wearers gravitating toward Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ/AAPL) “Apple Watch” and Google’s “Android Wear”-based devices. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. launched its smartwatch, “Galaxy Gear,” in 2013, but it is expected that the Apple Watch will put smartwatches on the map.
With a launch set for April of this year, Apple Watch gives wearers real-time views of really anything you want: the weather, stock quotes, sports, news, maps, etc. And the smartwatch alerts you with a tap on your skin when you receive an incoming message. It essentially offers everything you think you want and need.
There is also a lot of wearable technology out there being developed by private companies, technology that could be snapped up or built upon. Recon Instruments has developed wearable sports eyewear (skiing, cycling) that could rival Google Glass. It also develops wearable computers. In 2013, Intel Corporation (NASDAQ/INTC) offered the company cash and its manufacturing and technology expertise.(6) In 2014, Motorola Solutions, Inc. (NYSE/MSI), through its strategic investment arm Motorola Solutions Venture Capital, made an investment in Recon.(7)
Another form of wearable technology that has a bright future is wearable clothing. Vegalite.com makes clothing that contains LED lights that keep cyclists and pedestrians safe at night. It can also be worn as a fashion statement if that’s what you’re into.(8)
Other designers have experimented with building a mobile phone into a dress and LED lights embedded in shoes. In the future, smart clothes could be embedded with a computer, or be used to regulate our body temperature, recharge our phones and smartwatches, and even change their properties based on the weather.
Early adapters will get the proverbial worm when it comes to wearable technology. So, too, could early-bird investors.