- Demand for connected health monitoring has skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic and is only expected to accelerate in 2021, according to a new report from the Consumer Technology Association.
- Overall, retail sales of consumer tech are expected to reach a record-setting $487 billion this year. And connected health and fitness devices like blood glucose trackers, smart thermometers and pulse oximeters are a small but growing slice of that market, expected to reach $13 billion in revenue this year, up 12% from 2020.
- Some of the strongest growth is in smart health monitoring devices, which CTA expects to ship 12.8 million units and bring in $740 million in revenue this year, up from 10.4 million units and $632 million in revenue in 2020.
Even before the pandemic, consumers were embracing digital health tools in greater numbers, turning to wearables to track physical activity, lose weight, improve sleep and manage stress. But smart health monitoring devices have become even more popular over the past year, as the pandemic caused consumers to become more focused on their everyday health.
The new industry outlook from CTA reflects U.S. manufacturer shipments for more than 100 consumer tech products, and found growing demand for connected health devices even as COVID-19 cases wane in the U.S., hinting at sustained consumer attention to health management. Smartwatches, for example, are projected to reach $6.7 billion in revenue in 2021, growing 8% in unit shipments, while smart exercise products like Peloton and MYXfitness are forecast to bring in $3.9 billion, growing 43% in unit shipments.
But despite demand, evidence is mixed on whether health tech devices, especially wearables, actually improve health outcomes. Physicians rarely keep track of monitoring information obtained remotely, and reimbursement for the tech is rare, according to Forrester Research, suggesting that consumer tech and data have a ways to go before they're integrated more fully into care delivery.
The influx of cash has led to tech behemoths getting increasingly involved in the space, as manufacturers like Apple and Fitbit look to expand their devices' capabilities in healthcare. Fitbit, which Google acquired for $2.1 billion in a deal it said closed in January, released a smartwatch last year that includes an electrocardiogram app to track heart rhythm and flag signs of atrial fibrillation, a capability it received regulatory clearance for in September.
The company is also trialing its devices as early symptom detectors for infectious diseases, including COVID-19.
Similarly, Apple has been rounding out its device offerings, adding hearing assistance, a mobility feature and a respiratory tracker this year on top of existing capabilities.
And last summer, Amazon entered the ring with the launch of its sensor-enabled wristband and smartphone app, which it says can monitor a user's emotional state by listening to the tone of voice and using a three-dimensional rendering of a user's body to track body fat percentage, along with more mainstream uses like sleep tracking.