Wearables Market Heats Up For Holiday Sales

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NEW YORK — A wide-ranging assortment of new wearable technology is making its way to retail shelves in time for the holiday gifting season, and consumer demand is there to meet it.

A new consumer survey from Londonbased Futuresource Consulting found the U.S. is No. 1 when it comes to wearables adoption compared with its European counterparts, and purchase intent is rising.

The penetration rate of wearables in the U.S. was 14 percent as of October. A total of 8.7 percent of U.S. adults owned a fitness tracker, 4.4 percent owned a heart-rate monitor, and 4.8 percent own a smart watch. In the U.K., France and Germany combined, the percentages were 3.6 percent, 3.5 percent and 3 percent, respectively.

Across all four countries, interest in purchasing is growing. The percentage of respondents intending to purchase wearable devices in the next 12 months rose from 10 percent in May to 16 percent in October.

Interest in smart watches increased the most, with 9 percent expressing an interest to buy compared with 4 percent in May. Interest in fitness trackers grew to 6 percent from 4 percent, and interest in heart-rate monitors was flat at 3 percent. Interest in smart glasses also remained flat at 3 percent.

The wearables market has grown worldwide in 2014, with Futuresource forecasting full-year sales of more than 51 million units worldwide. The business will accelerate in 2015 as new brands enter the market, the company added.

Wearables is also becoming big business at Amazon.com.

The world’s largest e-tailer said the category is quickly becoming one of its most popular, and has enjoyed a triple-digit sales increase year-over-year since the company launched a Wearable Technology section in April.

In wearables introductions, Montrealbased Hexoskin added a second smart shirt to its wearables line, adding a winter model for cold weather training.

The Arctic Smart Shirt, billed as “the world’s first cold weather biometric smart shirt,” measures 42,000 data points of biometric information per second and pushes those metrics to a handheld device via an app.

In addition to measuring basic metrics such as heart rate, step count, sleep duration and calories burned, the device also measures heart-rate recovery, heartrate variability, breathing rate, breathing volume, activity level, acceleration, cadence and more.

The shirt, which is lined with textile-based sensors developed with the help of NASA and the Canadian Space Agency, is designed as a base layer and is said to provide heat insulation, breathability and odor resistance. The shirt is designed be used over long periods of time without causing irritation to the skin, delivering comfort similar to Merino wool, Hexoskin said.

A small Bluetooth device is connected to the fabric sensors and placed in the shirt’s built-in side pocket during activity and sleep.

The Arctic Smart Shirt will be available this month and will retail for $199.

Asus rolled out its first smart watch for the U.S. market through the Google Play store and BestBuy.com, with a $199 price tag.

The Zen Watch, which runs the Android Wear OS and pairs with Android 4.3+ smartphones, features stitched-leather strap, stainless-steel case, 1.2GHz CPU, 512MB RAM, 4GB memory, 1.63-inch 320 by 320 278 PPI touchscreen, curved Corning Gorilla Glass 3, Bluetooth 4.0, a built-in microphone and IP55 water-resistance rating.

Integrated sensors track heart rate, step counts and relaxation levels.

The watch displays incoming call information, messages, notifications and other information. With the built-in mic, users can dial by voice and respond to texts, instant messages, and email by voice. Users can also ask questions by voice and get answers, such as the weather forecast or driving directions.

From an Asus app running on a smartphone, users can select from more than 100 watch faces.

The watch also lets users unlock a phone or tablet by touching the watch face.

Intel revealed the pricing and feature set of its MICA (My Intelligent Communication Accessory) bracelet, made of precious gems and snakeskin.

Upscale fashion retailers Barneys and Opening Ceremony will retail MICA for $495 in early December.

MICA’s price includes two years of AT&T data service, which enables the bracelet to receive text messages from selected contacts, get notifications of incoming Gmail from selected contacts, respond with customized canned replies, get calendar and event notifications from Google Calendar and Facebook, accept or reject appointments, and view “Time to Go” reminders based on location and the time it would take to get to the next appointment. MICA also provides Yelp local search, which includes business ratings and reviews.

The bracelet features 18K gold coating with a curved sapphire-glass touchscreen display. One style features black water snake skin, pearls from China and lapis stones from Madagascar. A second style features white water snake skin, tiger’s eye from South Africa, and obsidian from Russia.

MICA was engineered by Intel and designed by Opening Ceremony, a fashion brand as well as retailer It will be available exclusively at Opening Ceremony stores in New York and Los Angeles, select Barneys New York locations and online.

Making its debut at Bloomingdale’s 59th Street flagship in Manhattan on Black Friday morning was the i.amPULS smart band, from musician/entrepreneur Will.i.am, who appeared live for an in-store DJ performance controlled entirely by the wrist-worn device.

The i.amPULS smart band makes and receives calls and texts and operates independently of a smartphone. According to the artist, the PULS represents the iconic intersection between fashion and technology, a concept he has coined “fashionology.”

Pre-ordering began last week for the Tyia, a “wearable personal assistant” from Viawear. The bracelet- like band syncs with a smartphone to provide the wearer with relevant alerts through vibration patterns and a subtle glow through a sapphire or custom gem fused with mother of pearl. The enclosure comes in either silver or gold and is a template for custom cover design options with easily interchangeable genuine leather and other band options. A charger is built in to the included jewelry stand. It will ship in Q1.

Finally, the wearables category is already going to the dogs with the debut of the Gibi, a ruggedized, waterproof GPS collar tag that tracks a pet in real time via a free app. The tag can be slipped on any collar and via the app can be set to monitor safe zones and send text, email and app notifications if the pet leaves the zone. Instant precise location tracking is delivered with one touch of the app.

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