Will wearable technologies steal the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show?

By Ken Kaplan, Intel iQ Editor-At-Large

Tablets were the standout new gadgets at last year’s Consumer Electronics Show, but this year a wave of wearable computing devices is expected to sweep across the showroom floor.

“I will be looking for anything pushing connectivity and computing to the next level,” said Ben Bajarin, principal at tech analyst firm Creative Strategies.

Bajarin believes we’re in an adoption rather than an innovation cycle, but he has no doubt that there will be lots of unexpected experimentation revealed at this year at CES, particularly around wearable technologies.

CES, held January 7-10 in Las Vegas, Nevada, is where thousands of devices debut each year. It’s where things like portable music players, big screen TVs, Ultrabook computers, digital cameras, and even house cleaning robots launched into the lives of mainstream consumers. A variety of industry analysts are predicting that most of the attention at this year’s show will focus on super high resolution 4K displays, tablets of all sizes, and household objects that can be controlled through the internet using mobile device applications.

But wearable technologies will be everywhere throughout the enormous CES showroom floor, according to Geoff Blaber, vice president of research at CCS Insight.

“This year it will be about super low cost wearables of every kind,” said Blaber. “We see an avalanche of smart watches, but that product category is unlikely to see any tangible growth until 2015.”

In 2013, Google Glass, Nike FitBit health tracking bracelets, and other wearable technologies became popular among technology enthusiasts. Earlier in the year, wearable technology designers from Nike and Oakley joined Intel to help the company create low power computing technologies for the burgeoning wearable devices market, something that Juniper Research values will be worth more than $1.5 billion by 2014, up from just $800 million in 2013. BI Intelligence expects to see annual wearable device shipments to exceed 100 million units in 2014 and growing to 300 million units by 2018.

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Wearables Ready or Not?

Still, wearable computers may not achieve huge commercial success so quickly, said Jon Peddie, president, Jon Peddie Research .

“We’re in the very early days with wearable computers in terms of experimentation,” he said, pointing out how companies are still defining the right usage models, the right physical size and where exactly people would wear these things.

He called the current first wave of wearable devices disappointing, but has no doubts that companies will figure things out.

“Long term, wearable computers are definitely going to be a component among the things that we have because they will augment our life,” he said. “It will help us get through the world, navigate commerce, airports, and social situations.”

But right now people are throwing a lot of spaghetti at walls, said Mike Feibus, principal analyst, TechKnowledge Strategies.

“It’s some pretty cool spaghetti, but it’s spaghetti nonetheless,” he said referring in general to the variety of wearable technologies starting to hit the market. “We’ll see what sticks, but I don’t think anyone quite has the right model down pact yet.”

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This article was produced by Intel and was not written by the Quartz editorial staff.

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