A new report from IHS Technology indicates double-digit growth for semiconductors providing wireless connectivity in health and fitness devices in 2014 and beyond, thanks to the use of wireless technologies in wearable devices.
According to the IHS report ‘Low-Power Wireless Market Tracker – Q2 2014’, shipments for wireless semiconductors in health and fitness will reach a projected 61.2 million units in 2014, up 11 percent from 55.0 million in 2013. Continuing the robust growth of 2012 and 2013, the market shows little signs of slowing, with shipments in 2018 expected to climb to 95.78 million units.
The overall health and fitness market covered by the forecast includes the sports and fitness segment on the one hand, as well as the adjacent market for health and wellness on the other. While overlaps exist between the two segments, there are also subtle differences. For instance, data and activity sharing by wireless means is more common in sports and fitness, while privacy is a major factor in health and wellness.
The fitness market as a whole is particularly receptive to wireless connectivity. Lee Ratliff, principal analyst for connectivity at IHS explains that wireless connectivity is important since most health and fitness devices are mobile. Being wearable, the wireless mobile devices also require a small form-factor, and therefore must support low-energy consumption to succeed in the consumer market.
Wireless connectivity mainly serves two purposes especially in sports and fitness applications, where it is often used to provide a link to remote sensors, as well as for data uploading; wireless connectivity is employed to upload fitness and performance data to PCs, smartphones, tablets or online communities for analysis and sharing.
Among the various wireless technologies now available on the market for health and fitness, Bluetooth Smart is the most successful with advantages including low-power technology that enables even the smallest wearable products to operate for years on a coin-cell sized battery. Bluetooth Smart also leverages its enviable position in mobile phones and tablets as it is the only major low-power wireless technology able to communicate with all the chief mobile platforms, including Apple iOS, Google Android, Microsoft Windows 8 and the BlackBerry operating system.
One wireless technology specifically designed for the health and fitness market and popular with heart-rate monitors, ANT/ANT+ is a low-power technology that does not enjoy the same broad support in mobile platforms, and also requires a PC or dongle, unlike Bluetooth Smart. Still, ANT/ANT+ enjoys a significant market share, especially in products designed for serious fitness enthusiasts and in cycling electronics.
Key drivers of growth in health and fitness devices include the desire among consumers to track, analyse and share personal data; increased use of wearable devices; decreasing component costs; an aging demographic concerned about preserving health; and the rising use of telehealth, or remote healthcare systems.