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Wearables: A matter of when, not if

I bucked the smartphone trend for as long as I could. When Apple’s iPhone 4s came out in 2011, I caved and never turned back. The same thing happened with tablets; now I own three. Sometimes, you can just tell that the world will leave you behind if you don’t ride the wave. For many of us, something similar will happen with wearables.

Wearables are by no means ubiquitous. In 2014, one in five Americans owned some kind of wearable device, and only 10% wore it daily, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute. That was before the Apple Watch hit the scene in April 2015, but the Watch wasn’t an overnight success; market research showed its sales dropped dramatically after the first month.

Today, the majority of wearables that consumers buy are fitness and health trackers such as Fitbit, Jawbone, Moov and Garmin wristbands. About 30% of U.S. households currently have a wearable health device, whereas only 5% use a smartwatch for health tracking, according to market research firm the NPD Group. But investment firm Piper Jaffray expects overall wearable sales to grow from 21 million units in 2014 to 150 million units in 2019.

So it seems we’ll all be wearing technology in the near future—and not just for counting steps. Enterprise use cases are becoming more viable, and last month’s International Consumer Electronics Show highlighted some of the latest wearables with business potential.

Two of the most unique products were MC10’s BioStamp Research Connect System and the ili wearable translator. BioStamp is a stick-on medical monitor the size of a Band-Aid that tracks vital signs and muscle activity—useful features for hospitals and healthcare research organizations. Ili’s translation device is a small necklace that you can speak into and choose a translation language. The device then speaks your new message aloud, all using a built-in dictionary of words—no Internet connection needed, ideal for international business travelers.

News writer Ramin Edmond explores more about the state of the enterprise wearables market in this month’s cover story. One thing is for sure: Wearable computing is a quickly growing market. Whether it’s for work or play, I already know I won’t be able to avoid it.

This post originally appeared in the February issue of the Modern Mobility e-zine.