To some people, smart glasses are a “cool” new gadget. They’re one of the most innovative developments in the emerging wearable technology market. It is the product segment closest to an imagined future for many tech-savvy consumers.
The current reality of smart glasses, however, has proven to be somewhat different — with emerging privacy concerns, dismissal of the initial devices as ugly and questions about exactly how useful the devices are in day-to-day life.
According to the findings from the latest market study by Juniper Research, a combination of lengthy time-to-market and the lack of a compelling use-case has resulted in low levels of shipments and adoption within the smart glasses marketplace.
The Juniper market study findings estimated that shipments of smart glasses were unlikely to exceed 10 million units per year until 2018.
Juniper expects sales to be buoyed slightly by fresh releases by several key industry players in 2015-2016 — including Samsung, Recon Instruments and the Osterhout Design Group.
At this point in the market development, Juniper argues that greater utility within the enterprise and healthcare segments is likely to spur development, until the devices catch on outside these markets.
Violation of Personal Privacy is Uncool
The study also found that smart glasses continue to raise significant privacy and safety concerns from many consumers and various international government regulatory organizations.
Juniper believes that these issues need to be addressed or assuaged before the devices become accepted, although prices and their status as supplementary devices mean that smart glasses will remain a niche product for the medium-term.
Smart glasses market development is at a comparable stage to initial smartphones in the early 2000s, primarily focused on the enterprise.
As workplaces are likely to share devices between users, rather than purchase devices in bulk for all their employees, this will result in high investment but low shipment volumes to the enterprise for the next five years.
Other key findings from the study include:
Android will remain the dominant smart glasses OS (operating system), although the anticipated release of the Samsung Gear Blink in 2015 will bring Tizen into the space.
Most current smart glasses software is supplied on a bespoke basis to enterprise users.
Visible software progress across the industry will remain low outside a few showcased achievements until software-sharing spaces emerge.