Worldwide revenues from sports, fitness, and activity tracking devices will grow by 46 percent between 2013 and 2019, according to a recent report from analyst group IHS Technology. The firm attributes growth to the increasing number of health-conscious consumers willing to buy heart rate monitors and other wearable devices.
IHS pegs global OEM revenue at $1.9 billion in 2013, which will rise to $2.8 billion in 2019. In 2014 revenues will grow 22 percent to $2.2 billion. IHS estimates that there were 84 million of these devices in the market last year, and the total number will top 120 million by 2019.
“The market for traditional, dedicated sports, fitness and activity monitors will continues to thrive even amid the encroachment of smartphones and of multifunction wearable devices such as smart glasses,” Shane Walker, senior manager for medical devices and healthcare IT research at IHS predicted. "There is continued demand for chest strap heart-rate monitors despite alternatives that make use of optical technologies, and sales of running computers with the global positioning system (GPS) are still climbing. Beyond consumer demand, sales of activity monitors will be stimulated over the long term by corporate wellness programs, and from healthcare providers who may use the devices as part of a prescription for their patients.”
The research firm notes that "the lingering effects of the recession" will help drive some users to seek out free or inexpensive fitness tracking apps, but that trend will not "hinder positive growth" for the dedicated fitness device market because dedicated devices are better suited for particular activities, like cycling, hiking, climbing, and swimming.
IHS' fitness monitor category includes heart rate monitors, sports and running computers, cyclist computers, activity monitors, and pedometers, according to the company. The vast majority of these devices have a sub-$200 pricetag.
Following news that Nike is pulling back from fitness devices to focus on software, Basis' quiet exit from the market following an acquisition by Intel, and the recent Fitbit recall, the IHS report is a decidedly sunny report. At a recent technology conference in Boston, RunKeeper CEO and founder Jason Jacobs threw cold water on the dedicated fitness device trend.
“What we started to notice was this fitness-specific hardware was on a road to nowhere, because over time it’s on a path to commoditization. How can they possibly maintain these margins when there’s less and less differentiation and more and more players in the market?” he said. “So from a focus standpoint, we’re squarely focused on being the software that powers the fitness component of phones and, in general, wearables. And while we still plan to integrate with the third party inputs, we don’t think the standalone devices that are fitness specific are the vehicle that is going to take this stuff to the mass market. We think it’s going to be the phone.”