Life-Changing Tech That’s Soon to Be Worth $5 Billion

Matthew Carr
by Matthew Carr, Emerging Trends Strategist, The Oxford Club
hearables

We’re hurtling toward a future of complete internet immersion. Soon, we will be connected to the web not just by one or two devices on our person...

But a whole array.

It’s projected that by 2020 - not even four short years away - the wearables market will be worth $34 billion.

That’s a 142% increase from the roughly $14 billion it’s worth today.

Estimates are that the average consumer will be outfitted with three to eight wearable devices in the coming years.

To be clear, that's in addition to the standard arsenal of a smartphone, tablet and laptop.

ccs-global-wearables-forecast-2016-2020(Source: CCS Insight)

What are wearables? The category includes fitness trackers, which are produced by companies like Fitbit (Nasdaq: FIT), Jawbone and Garmin (Nasdaq: GRMN) to name a few.

Then there’s the Apple Watch from Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL), along with all its smartwatch competitors.

We have the futuristic-looking eyepiece Glass from Google (Nasdaq: GOOG). And the just-announced (and more fashionable) Snapchat Spectacles.

So that covers the face and wrist. But today, I want to focus on a lesser-known area of the wearables market... one that’s estimated to be worth $5 billion alone in just a couple of years.

I’m talking about “hearables.”

You probably noticed the uproar when Apple announced it was getting rid of the headphone port on its newest iPhone. As a result, iPhone owners will now have to use wireless “smart headphones.”

Reactions to the news ranged from delight to outrage. But there may be a lot more to Apple’s plan than many people realize.

You see, the ear is a good place to monitor vital signs.

InvenSense (NYSE: INVN) has demonstrated in the past how special sensors in ear buds can detect your mood and select music based on it.

And the opportunities in the hearables market - for both consumers and investors - go well beyond entertainment. There are medical applications as well.

The global headphone market is worth roughly $2 billion. But the global hearing aid market? It’s worth more than double that - a whopping $5.4 billion.

About half of all baby boomers suffer from some degree of hearing loss. One study found that 38 million boomers between the ages of 40 and 59 are affected. And they’re losing their hearing at a more rapid pace than previous generations.

Now companies like ReSound are working to produce smart hearing aids that connect with the iPhone and Apple Watch.

True, plenty of other hearing aid makers have Bluetooth capability. But they typically require a separate device - a streamer box - worn around the neck. This eliminates that need, replacing it with a device you’re far more likely to carry already (a smartphone).

Plus, ReSound’s LiNX hearing aid has GPS integration and can have preset tone and volume controls for various locations.

Other “smart” hearing loss treatments are taking off as well.

Cochlear implants, which use external processors to transmit audio signals to an implant, allow hard-of-hearing or near-deaf individuals to hear once again.

And since Cochlear Ltd. (ASX: COH; OTC: CHEOF) launched, more than 450,000 users in 100 different countries have had their hearing restored... including my mother-in-law.

Not surprisingly, shares of the company have risen nearly 70% over the past two years.

The overall wearables market will boom in the coming years. We won’t quite be cyborgs... but we’ll be draped in devices that make our lives easier.

For investors, these innovations are sure to be profitable. But they’ll be even more important to the people who need them to change their way of life.

Good investing,

Matthew

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