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Smartwatch deathmatch: Rivals battle for total ARM DOMINATION

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Canalys Channels Forum Consumers face a battle for their wrists as mobile vendors and consumer electronics upstarts pile into the wearable tech market over the next few years.

But their foreheads will remain largely uncluttered, as head-mounted kit is likely to remain the preserve of Google fanboys – for the time being, at least, analysts at Canalys' Channels Forum event in Bangkok said today.

Consumers already have the choice of the Pebble, Samsung Gear and the third generation of Sony's SmartWatch, said Canalys senior analyst Tim Coulling, but this year's shipments are still only going to come in under one million units.

However, next year customers are likely to strap on about 5 million smart band devices, with the market surging to 23.4 million in 2015, Coulling predicted. This spike in growth should be driven in part by the likes of Samsung's next generation Gear, as well as the still largely mythical Apple entry into the smart wristwear market.

However, Canalys kept its focus firmly on users' wrists, and not their foreheads. Coulling said that Google Glass was still not a commercial product. More to the point, market acceptance of such devices was still open to question, with privacy concerns meaning Glass had gained the distinction of being banned from bars and other venues before it had even hit the market.

Coulling distinguished between smart wearables, such as the Gear or Google Glass, basic wearables such as the Nike Fuel band, and "companion" products, such as health and wellness products such as heart rate monitors or security/proximity devices. He predicted increased convergence between the smart and basic wearables, and between them and "fashion watches".

One product highlighted throughout Canalys' event was Sproutling, a wearable band for babies, which will monitor vital health signs, and which has a companion monitor which tracks environmental factors such as noise and air quality. The data is relayed to a smartwatch so that parents can continue to fret over the smallest issue, without actually getting out of bed or approaching their offspring. The package is due to ship next year.

Sproutling highlights one of the issues around smartwatches and other wearables - how to actually use the data, or to even make it useful.

“It requires apps to be developed,” Coulling said, meaning that even what you do in the privacy of your own home with your wrist will, in time, become the stuff of big data analytics. ®

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