Double-Digit Demand Growth for Wearables to Continue Through 2021

The market for wearables is expected to post an 18.4% compound annual growth rate from 2017 to 2021, according to new data from market intelligence company International Data Corporation.

Basic wristbands such as Fitbits have been leaders in this area for some time, but Framingham, Massachusetts-based IDC said the number of watch shipments will account for much of the sector’s future growth, going from 61.5 million in 2017 to an expected 149.5 million in 2021 as fashion brands and other companies get into the game.

"What will merit continued observation is how the market evolves beyond its current status and how users will either replace or append to their current devices," said Ramon Llamas, who is a research manager for IDC's Wearables team. "Tomorrow's wearables will become more fully featured and multi-functional, spanning health and fitness to communication and productivity. Effectively, that will make today's wearables seem quaint, and spur upgrades and replacements.

The credit union industry is also getting in on wearables. In September, for example, CO-OP Financial Services announced it was supporting Tukwila, Washington-based Boeing Employees Credit Union and Mountain View, California-based First Tech Federal Credit Union in rolling out MasterCard’s payments services for the Garmin and Fitbit wearable devices. BECU has $17.6 billion in assets and about one million members. First Tech Federal Credit Union has $11 billion in assets and about 501,000 members.

Also in September, Melbourne, Florida-based NXT-ID, which operates the FitPay contactless payments platform, announced an agreement that allows Bank of America customers to do contactless transactions with their credit and debit cards at merchants and over 9,000 ATMs. Manufacturers of 15 IoT and wearable devices are currently integrating with the FitPay payment platform, according to the company. 

“Attracting digital consumers to credit union membership hinges on the movement’s ability to hustle into a first-mover stance,” CO-OP President and CEO Todd Clark said back in September. “As consumers across the country unbox their shiny new wearables from FitBit, Garmin and other fan-favorite tech brands, credit unions need to be right there saying, ‘Yes, we support that.’” 

Though watches still appear to wear the pants in the sector, IDC also reported that other types of wearables are also growing.

In the coming years, sensor-laden clothing, led mainly by step-counting shoes, will have features similar to those contained in wristbands and watches, it predicted. Also, earwear, which includes wireless headphones that have fitness tracking or audio augmentation features, is expected to post a 58.5% compound annual growth rate from 2017 to 2021. The lack of a headphone jack in many new smartphones will likely drive some of that growth, IDC noted.

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