Boston, Mass. -- There is good news for electronic component manufacturers that are developing solutions for the wearable device market. Global sales of wearable devices is expected to grow tenfold from 15 million units in 2013 to 154 million units by 2018, according to new research from Strategy Analytics. The biggest sales are expected to come from smartwatches, smartglasses and fitness bands, available from major brands such as Samsung and Nike over the next five years.
"We forecast global wearable device sales for consumer users to rise tenfold from 15 million units in 2013 to 154 million in 2018," said Matt Wilkins, director at Strategy Analytics, in a statement. "Wearables are a high-growth market that no hardware or software vendor can ignore. We expect the United States, UK and China to be among the largest markets for wearable users worldwide in the next five years."
Strategy Analytics recommends that manufacturers, retailers and mobile operators focus on the big three growth areas: smartwatches, smartglasses and fitness bands. However, there are several technical challenges including compact displays not fully optimized, short battery lives, and a limited pool of developers creating wearable apps, according to Linda Sui, senior analyst at Strategy Analytics. This is on top of growing demand for ever-shrinking components to fit into these small devices.
One electronic component manufacturer addressing some of these challenges is STMicroelectronics. The semiconductor maker offers many analog and mixed-signal devices including current sensors, audio amplifiers, op amps, analog switches, and battery gas gauges that target the nascent market for wearable technology.
A few examples tackling battery consumption include ST’s single, dual, and quad op amps, such as the OA4NP33 quad low-power op amp, that offer an ultra-low-power typical consumption of 580 nA per channel (at 1.8V power supply), making them suited for functions such as sensor signal-conditioning in battery-operated wearable devices. Another product, the GG25L gas gauge, uses a patented OptimGauge algorithm to monitor battery voltage to an accuracy of 0.25%.
Other devices include motion sensors like the LIS2DH12 ultra-low-power digital 3-axis accelerometer and the LSM303C ultra-compact high-performance e-compass module. ST’s M24SR dynamic tags add NFC connectivity to wearable applications for wireless pairing, automatic connection to websites, or warranty-card activation. All of these ST devices will be available in volume in March 2014.