The wearables and IoT markets have a certain air of desperation—that is, many products in these categories smack of solutions in search of a problem. Citing an Argus Insights report, Junko Yoshida said at EE Times, “Consumer wearable devices are hitting the wall. The market demand for body-worn gadgets has been declining all year.” The flagship of consumer wearables is the fitness band, although the smartwatch is seeking to steal the spotlight. Fitness bands, as single-function devices lack the potential for broader appeal that a smartwatch enables. Yet even smartwatches are highly limited owing to their tiny screens and often short battery life.
This situation raises the question of whether the IoT is truly a rich untapped market. Will consumers bore of their Internet-connected stoves and frying pans just like they bore of their fitness bands? Who, for instance, will be designing apps for smartphone-controlled lightbulbs? Fortunately or unfortunately, novelty is a strong selling point for many doomed products. Notes Colin Neagle at Network World, “While [the loss in consumer interest in fitness bands] could signal a move toward more capable smartwatches, it might also be a cause of the widespread drop in interest in wearables. If even the early adopters have become so dissatisfied, why would other consumers care about the technology?” The IoT must likewise show lasting value for consumers in ways that are real and affordable for the functions they deliver (e.g., the premium on a refrigerator that can tell you you’re out of milk may not be worth the value in terms of capability).
Most likely, both the IoT and wearables markets will find niche uses, likely focusing as much (if not more) on industrial or commercial applications as on consumer applications. But that may not be enough to drive these markets to the level of sales that many vendors are hoping for.
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