We've been dazzled by the Sochi Winter Olympics; we've been tempted by cool new wearables showcased at International CES 2014 and this week at GSMA MWC 2014; we're thinking about the New Year's resolutions we've already broken; and the M2M moment connecting new sports and fitness wearable devices to our bodies to provide the data to improve ourselves and our sport performance is available and poised for growth.
Weekend warrior wearables
Consumer Electronics (CE) wearables have focused on fitness and health so far, with smartbands certainly well outselling smartwatches still (and with good fashion reason). For the average fitness minded consumer, the ability to track and improve sports and fitness goals is alluring and as the software and hardware continue to improve (and keeping fashion squarely in mind now!); it looks like the slack expected in smartphone sales may be taken up some by these new wearables. Global Purchasing reported this week, "[… A]s demand grows, sales of fitness and activity-tracking devices are expected to exceed $1 billion this year—a nearly 40% increase over 2013."
As consumers demand more ways to collect data about themselves and the productivity of their fitness and health activities, also called "the quantified-self movement," we are seeing real growth in components and devices, especially sensors on a package – much like the System in a Package (SiP) we see for processors, as discussed recently in Smith's MarketWatch Quarterly. Along growth lines and the diversification of sensors for new end-devices, EETimes recently commented, "Use of sensors across a whole host of products and businesses is exploding."
Pro athletes' Big Data
For the professional athlete, there's an even greater promise from improved monitoring of every movement and biorhythm through wearable sensors and cameras – improvement and adjusting performance so that those fractions of a difference are in the athlete's favor.
Thanks to the growth and ASP reduction of the technology needed to provide the athletes and coaches with data feedback, there is a proliferation of increasingly sophisticated electronics for real-time monitoring and adjustments. As the Wall Street Journal noted in a December article, US ski and snowboard coaches, in advance of the Sochi games, were among the few to have real-time video recording with immediate playback through private wireless networks. This allowed these athletes and coaches to immediately review footage of runs and compare side-by-side recorded runs for immediate adjustments. That's a far cry from the post-event review in the locker room. Similarly, collegiate and professional team coaches are able to monitor players biometric data to decide who is going to play and who is going to rest at any given moment, while also having the long-term data to review every nuance of an athlete's movement, contact, and angles to target fine adjustments that can make the difference in winning or not.
Pro athletes and the tech advantages through wearable devices, high-tech monitoring, and grinding through the Big Data sets generated through video, sensors, and a slew of data collection methods, is truly a driving force in the sports world. This week, as reported by Bloomberg, over 2,000 people will be attending the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, underscoring the growth in sports analytics as a field as well. In hand with the technological ability to collect data on athletes' every movement comes the requirement to be able to handle those vast data sets and provide meaningful analyses to improve performance and predict (and strategize) plays and adjustments in real-time as well as over the course of a season. At the heart of these capabilities is the requirement of improved M2M connectivity so that the monitoring and analyses can be moved from the training center labs into the fields where the actual competition plays out and changes in real-time are most needed.
Strong M2M growth forecasted
EP&T discussed GSMA's report on the M2M market this week. The findings reveal that expansion as well as incremental growth is happening in the M2M space, with forecasts for roughly 38% CAGR coming in for the period of 2010 to 2013, and continued strong growth ahead. The M2M growth is primarily one of commercial deployment expansion, EP&T notes, but with the growth and development of M2M capabilities that mobile operators can offer, directly affects the user satisfaction with M2M device connections and performance. This M2M capability does, in turn, relate to the ability for wearables to improve in sophistication and connectivity to smart devices. Such improved connectivity will allow for richer data and analysis experiences by the user, whether weekend warrior or professional coach and athlete, and greater uptake in demand.