Wearables Predictions: Who to Watch for Prediction #5

This is the fifth post in a Wearable Industry Watch Series for each of the 10 Wearables Predictions.  Follow this blog or Twitter handle @WorkTechWork to be notified of each part of the series. To view all predictions and links to the other parts of the series, visit the Wearable Industry Watch Series.

Prediction #5: The cost of sensors will continue to go down, thus enabling more uses and innovation with sensors in wearable devices.

Fifty years ago Cray’s 1964 CDC 6600 super computer sold for $8 million (about $55 million in today’s dollars).  Your smart phone can do more than that supercomputer.  It goes without saying that in fifty years one would expect the cost of sensors to go down; however, I actually anticipate the costs will go down dramatically in the next 10 years.

A Look at Sensor Cost Trends:

We’re going to take a tangent here away from wearables and focus for a moment on sensors in general as the sensors used in wearable devices are used in other places and a lot of the innovation that is occurring for sensing in manufacturing, research and development and other applications is benefiting wearable technology as a side perk for this fledgling industry.

A comprehensive report on sensor trends can be found in the Association for Sensor Technology’s Sensor Trends 2014.  There you can learn about development trends in electromechanical measuring, sensor electronics and semiconductor technologies, communication and system integration, packaging, and testing processes for MEMS components.  Several points discussed in the report touch on reasons for lower costs in components, packaging, sensor housings and other areas are attributed to cost savings for sensors.  The report also notes pressure being applied by sensor purchasers to reduce costs and cost reduction as sensor production increases and the industry benefits from economies of scale.

Robert Scoble, Startup Liaison Officer for Rackspace, talks about the decreasing costs of 3D sensors such as the one made by PrimeSense, which he and Shel Israel write about in their book, The Age of Context.  Acquired by Apple in 2013, PrimeSense sensors are used in the Xbox Kinect and have gone from costing over $100 a few years ago, to around $50 last year and now to an estimated $25.  This is ultra-video sensing for less than a trip to the movies with popcorn and soda.  For those who are curious, check out the precision of the Xbox Kinect sensors:

In this clip see Skeleton, Orientation, Muscle & Force and Heart Rate detection.

In this clip see 3D Sensor, 2D Color Camera and Active IR which allows the Xbox to see in the dark by removing ambient room light.

What does this mean for sensor technology?

I’m not sure if wearable sensors will experience 50% year over year cost reductions but lets note some prices here for the record to watch.

To pre-order and outfit oneself with Sensoria smart socks and t-shirt mentioned in Who to Watch for Prediction #3 you’ll be set back $300, $150 for one pair of fitness socks and one anklet and anklet charger, and $149 for a Sensoria Fitness T-Shirt and heart rate monitor bundle.  Another socks bundle offers four pairs of socks for $199.  The fitness t-shirt, sports bra and heart rate monitor are sold separately for $79 each.

For comparison, Hexoskin, whose product has been on the market for a year now, sells a starter kit for $399 that includes a biometric sleeveless shirt, the Hexoskin Bluetooth device and a USB cable.  Additional Hexoskin sleeveless shirts are sold for $179.

OMsignal’s Up & Running Kit can be pre-ordered for $199 and comes with a bio-sensing compression shirt, a data module and a USB charging cable.  A separate short sleeved shirt, the OM Endurance Fitness Short Sleeved sells for $99 and the OM Focus Lifestyle Sleeveless sells for $79.

Similarly, Live Athos is pre-selling a $390 bundle with a shirt ($99), shorts ($99) and Core ($199).

For this prediction to be right, the prices of these and smart clothing with similar features should go down dramatically over the next couple of years on account of sensor cost reductions if these producers pass the sensor cost savings on to their customers.  This should start to happen in the next year so we’ll stop back here and take a look at the prices and see how the price of a quantified jog changes.

There are other prices that ought to be documented here.  Several fitness trackers for both the quantified self and quantified pet come in at or around $99 including Whistle, Polar Loop, Misfit Shine, Nike+ Fuelband SE, Fitbit Flex, Mio, Skechers Gowalk, Sync Burn Fitness Band.  The Jawbone Up sells for $79 and Up 24 for $149.  LG’s FB84-BM also sells for $149 as does the Samsung Galaxy Gear Fit.  I could continue but this is an industry watch of a few companies and products, not a comprehensive review by a team of analysts.

If you are producing sensors, what is happening to your costs?  If you’re building sensors into wearable devices, are you applying pressure on suppliers to get the costs down so that you can attractively price your devices for the market?  If so, comment below or reach out as I’d love to talk.

Next Prediction: Who to Watch For Prediction #6

Previous Prediction: Who to Watch for Prediction #4

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