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Wearable sensor industry worth $2.5 billion in 2020

The wearable sensor industry will be worth $2.5 billion in 2020, having tripled in size since 2014, according to a new study from IDTechEX. 

This comes despite the significant economic challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused a reduction in the total revenue this year. 

However, the industry is expected to progress back to significant growth from 2021, reaching annual revenue of over $8bn per year by 2031. 

The latest IDTechEx report "Wearable Sensors 2021-2031" looks at the sensor's place within the wearable devices, describing the technology and value chain behind each sensor, as well as the emerging landscape for each. 

For example, on the wrist, we have seen optical heart rate metrics be introduced and then expanded to include additional features such as heart rate variability (HRV) and blood oxygen (spO2) metrics (as seen in the Apple Watch 6 and other competitive products). 

However, there is additional potential for these functions to expand, adding more wavelengths on the optical chips and opening up new potential applications into the future.

A similar product roadmap has been described for each sensor type. 

For example, for the many types of electronic skin patches which incorporate wearable electrodes, the report describes how electrode material stacks are being developed to enable increased wear time without sacrificing comfort, safety or performance.

In hearables, there has been a significant investment towards the integration of sensors for physiological monitoring alongside the traditional hearing health-focused functions. Whilst commercial progress here is still in the very early stages, the report discusses the opportunity here for many different sensor types.

However, the overarching message continues to emphasise the importance of sensors within the whole wearable technology sector, providing the key functionality behind core value propositions for many wearable device types. This is driving a significant revenue growth, both in terms of raw annual revenue from sensors but also in sensor revenue as a percentage of the total revenue from wearables. This is enabled as increasing expansion of sensor capabilities drives increasing importance over time within the sector as a whole. 

In August, GlobalData reported the global wearables market had been particularly resilient during 2020, despite the economic hardship affecting so many other industries due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

It said increased usage could be attributed to multiple new wearable functionalities aiding in the fight against the virus, including disease tracking capabilities, symptom prediction and patient monitoring.