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Where is wearable technology headed ? Ⅰ

According to market research firm, IDTechEx, these are the biggest trends for wearable technology at present.

1. 2019 saw the largest single year growth rate for wearable technology product revenue since 2015.

The wearables market had a very strong 2020, growing 19% to reach a total of $70bn for the year. The most significant product sector driving an increase in growth over the previous year was the true wireless headphones product sector, as part of hearables, which generated over $4bn of new revenue relative to 2018. The other strongest growth came from device categories such as smartwatches and continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) devices, which grew by just under $4bn and $1.3bn respectively relative to 2018 values. This represents the largest one year growth rate since peak wearables hype in 2015 (a year which saw the commercial launches of leading devices such as the Apple Watch), which emphasises the growing strength in the sector and the continuing opportunity for new development and growth.

2. COVID-19 has already had a significant impact on 2020 revenues, but many sectors retain long-term optimism.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a profound societal and economic impact, and many wearable products have been part of this. The most critical impact to date has been at the point-of-sale for many products, with lockdowns and social distancing measures meaning that stores are closed, doctors appointments are not taking place in person and sales of many products have been significantly impacted as a result. However, the impact has been very varied; where some products have seen as much as an 80% reduction in sales for Q2 2020 vs Q2 2019, other areas such as remote patient monitoring devices have been accelerated onto the market to assist in pandemic countermeasures.

3. Specific regulatory changes coming in 2020 and 2021 will have a significant impact in skin patches, hearables and beyond.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is profound and as such has by far the largest impact on the short-term outlook for the sector. However, the reports highlight regulatory changes as another factor which will have a significant impact going forward. This has already been seen in relation to COVID-19, where many products involved in pandemic countermeasures have been fast-tracked to FDA approvals. Regulatory barriers are critical challenges for many players, from new start-ups to global leaders, and changes to them can shift the dynamic immediately.

The IDTechEx reports highlight several other specific regulatory changes which have been longer awaited, which will cause disruption in the product areas covered. In hearables, the Over the Counter Hearing Aid act requires guidelines for that product category to be established by August 2020, paving the way for a new generation of hearing assistance products which can be approved and reimbursed as part of the US healthcare system. In electronic skin patches, new regulatory and reimbursement frameworks for wearable cardiovascular monitoring focusing on mobile cardiac telemetry and extended Holter monitoring are expected to be confirmed in 2020 and implemented in early 2021. Both of these steps introduce new product opportunities, and the research details ways in which companies are planning to adapt to these changes as they are implemented. We expect these changes in regulation to have an immediate impact on the industry dynamic in the markets which they affect.

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