Global shipments of wearable computers, such as those carried on the belt or built into a piece of fabric, will grow by more than 50 per cent each year until 2006, according to a new report.
Technology market research firm Venture Development said that the wearable market, led by military, medical, public safety and sports users, will reach a value of more than $100m in 2002 and grow to over $563m by 2006.
"The true potential for wearable computing in 2006 could be well over $1.3bn if improvements are made in consumer-based products, including commercially viable smart fabric technology," said report author Tim Shea.
He explained that in the near future, smart fabric products will integrate a vast array of sensors into everyday products.
The report suggested that improvements in related enabling technologies, such as speech and voice recognition, head-mounted displays and the miniaturisation of components, would fuel the explosive demand for such devices.
While the researchers expect WindowsCE/PocketPC and WindowsNT/2000 to be the most common operating systems for wearables, they indicated that shipments with Linux, Windows XP, Java J2ME, Palm and others would also see some increased demand from niche applications.
Worldwide, the five largest suppliers of wearable computers in 2001 were Symbol, Vocollect, Xybernaut, ViA and Psion Teklogix, according to Venture Development. The two major wearable form factors in 2001 were belt/head products and wrist/finger products.
Venture Development based its findings on a web survey and phone interviews with 471 people including industry executives.
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