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Wearables have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic because consumer interest in buying non-essential devices has dropped in the first quarter of 2020, along with the issues associated with a hampered supply chain. Wearable shipments in 2020 are now expected to be 254 million, down from a previously forecasted 281 million.

However, all wearable device types are expected to increase slightly in the second half of 2020, with smartwatches and sports, fitness, and wellness trackers leading this growth. In support of this trend, consumer and enterprise preferences are shifting toward wearables that feature more health-related monitoring capabilities. Healthcare wearables are already being utilized to help track the progression of COVID-19 and monitor patients remotely.

What is the Short-Term Impact?

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a higher health awareness to all individuals around the world. Wearables with advanced health monitoring features will begin to buoy the wearables market in the second half of 2020 and pave the way for 289 million wearable shipments by 2021 and 329 million by 2022 as the world recovers from the pandemic.

Many devices, such as those from Apple, Samsung, Fitbit, Withings, and Oppo, are offering, or expected to soon offer, advanced monitoring features such as ECG tracking, sleep apnea detection, arrhythmia detection, and blood oxygen tracking. The incorporation of these features into devices, particularly smartwatches, that already have several other features, allows users to utilize one device rather than multiple devices for different purposes.

Alleviating Safety Issues During COVID-19

Wearables, in particular healthcare devices (such as cellular, Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi connected blood pressure monitors, continuous glucose monitors, pulse oximeters, and electrocardiogram monitors), smartwatches, and activity trackers, have often been used in medical trials to help healthcare professionals monitor the vitals of a large number of patients simultaneously, both in and out of the hospital, often focusing on specific healthcare issues. COVID-19 is no exception, with a number of wearable companies, platform companies, and healthcare companies working together on a number of different projects across a number of regions using wearable devices to aid with tracking the progress of the virus or monitoring the vital statistics of potential sufferers.

The wearable trials and deployments that record vitals and monitor symptoms can alert medical professionals if a patient’s condition worsens. This becomes particularly important when the number of hospital beds is limited and patients are sent home, ensuring that the seriously ill are cared for in hospitals while other patients with less severe symptoms can still monitored remotely. With COVID-19, these wearables also help mitigate unnecessary contact between the seriously ill and medical staff, who are at serious risk of being exposed to the virus and potentially transmitting it to other vulnerable patients.

Wearables in Healthcare: Here to Stay

The fast move to adopt wearables currently in use, the valuable data they provide, the quick development of new products and studies, and the fast approval by the healthcare regulatory agencies support the move to utilize wearables during these difficult times. It is expected that these new deployments and studies undertaken during the COVID-19 pandemic will act as a boost to the healthcare wearables market in the longer term, with more awareness around how these devices can aid healthcare professionals, save valuable time and resources, and improve patient level of care.

Despite an increasing number of these vital trials, studies, and deployments of wearables aiding the fight against COVID-19, more can always be done. Both wearable and healthcare companies should examine how a variety of wearable devices can help, either by tracking the spread of the virus in different regions to give healthcare professionals more information about what locations are most adversely affected, or by remotely monitoring patients to reduce the amount of interaction between them and healthcare professionals.

Not only will this help with urgent COVID-19 issues, it will also help with any future healthcare related outbreaks, including handling second and even third waves of the virus. Healthcare wearables are expected to see shipments increase from 30 million in 2020 to 104 million in 2025, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 29%, with Average Selling Prices (ASPs) dropping from US$121 to US$108, which shows that there is a real push toward using these devices to boost this sector.

This research is presented as part of our 5G Devices, Smartphones, and Wearables research service, which features our latest Insights, market data, and application analysis reports.