Smart wearable devices (SWD) have been creating a great buzz for quite some years now. Started majorly in the Western side of the world, smart wearable devices have expanded their reach to developing or even underdeveloped nations, enhancing the daily lives of people in multitude of ways and somehow breaking the common belief that these devices are not meant for mass consumers.
The popularity of smart wearables is such that the global market in 2020 of these devices exceeded the predictions made back in 2014. Today, the worldwide market of smart wearables devices stands at over US $ 25 billion as compared to the predictions made in 2014 which was US $ 22.90 billion. In fact, according to SGS – a one-stop solution provider for manufacturers of SWDs – over 245 million devices were sold by 2019. This growth is expected to continue, with an estimated 368.9 million users of smart wearable tech by 2024, each spending at least US $ 79.75.
As far as fashion clothing industry is concerned, the market of wearable clothing is likely to grow from US $ 1.60 billion in 2019 to US $ 5.30 billion by 2024 at a CAGR of 26.20 per cent.
But what exactly this buzz is all about?
The term ‘wearable device’, sometimes called wearable technology, refers to items that are worn on the body that contain electrical or electronic components such as smart watches, smart shoes and smart clothing and accessories. However, SWD takes wearable technology to the next level, with these wearable devices now able to communicate wirelessly with other devices.
The best thing about such devices is that the health and fitness sector is being advanced and has been a key driver in the market for SWDs as the fitness trackers are still the largest product category by unit sales – says SGS. The fitness trackers are also embedded with clothing through an embedded computing device that monitors health statistics which is further boosting the scope of such devices.
However, if it had not been the activewear market growth, smart wearable industry might never have made this strong today. With over US $ 270 billion worth of market size, activewear and athleisure garments have benefited with the rising health consciousness of the world’s population and it is certainly that prospect for growth in athletic apparels which tends to bring in more innovations in such garments. ‘Smart Clothing’ or ‘Wearable Clothing’ is one of the results of these innovations which is getting linked rapidly with the habits of fitness freaks across the world as health and fitness trend for adults and sports participation for youth have gone global in recent times.
Shirts, shorts and leggings can now enhance workout in more ways than one can imagine and when it is about getting into the people’s favourite list, then it is obvious that researchers and developers are certainly looking for ways to make it more technological…
Not a very long time ago, Apple launched a ‘Smart Watch’ which could track the calories burnt by an athlete during exercise. But the next frontier of wearable has nothing to do with the wrist. Instead, activewear which the wearers are already slipping into to sweat is getting smart from leggings that can check their lunge form to shirts that can monitor their heart-beat rate or bras which are perfect for high-intensity exercises like HIIT, running and combat.
How about ensuring regulations in SWDs?
SWDs incorporate both an electrical and non-electrical component and are, by their very nature, classified as cross-category products. The electrical component is contained in clothing and related accessories and it therefore needs to conform to the regulatory requirements for both electrical and electronic (EE) products and the relevant regulations for the surrounding structure.
Products that fail to conform to these standards are at risk of recall. In some cases, the reason for the recall has been the electronic component or non-electric component – for example, in the US in 2014, tracking wristbands were recalled because they irritated the skin of the users and caused blistering.
It is therefore important for the manufacturers of SWDs to ensure their products conform to all the relevant legislation enforced in their target market. This can make the process more complex as product testing needs to be considered in relation to: Mandatory compliance; International Type Approval – CE or FCC; Patent and alliance logos – Bluetooth, Wi-Fi Certified; and Performance and reliability testing – specific to type of product (e.g., performance tests for shoes).
What if you buy a tech-enabled garment to monitor your heart rate but it fails on the compliance side in no time? Here comes the significance of ‘Mandatory Compliance’ which can be divided into 4 sub-categories –
- Product safety
- Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC)
- Radio frequency
- Chemical compliance
Smart wearable manufacturers operating in EU markets need to ensure mandatory chemical substance compliance against a variety of pieces of legislation, including REACH, directives on packaging and batteries and regulations covering persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and the allergenic effect. In terms of EE components, EU regulations include:
- Directive 2011/65/EU Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS)
- Directive 2012/19/EU on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)
- Regulations on radio frequency and electromagnetic compatibility (EMC)
On the other hand, when operating in the USA, smart wearable manufacturers must consider:
- Toxics in Packaging Clearing House (TPCH)
- California Proposition 65
- US Public Law 104-142 for batteries
- Regulations enforced by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
“Most countries will also have safety standards to which the product must conform,” says SGS. These regulations represent just the tip of the iceberg and manufacturers are advised to partner with an experienced testing and certification service provider to ensure they are complying with the correct legislation.