Juniper says over 100m smartwatches will be in use by 2019, but GfK warns payment systems face challenges

The Apprentice looks at wearable tech – but how big will that market be?

Participants on BBC’s The Apprentice TV show will be asked to design a piece of wearable technology in the episode tonight (Wednesday October 15th, 9pm).

The business show featuring Amstrad founder Lord Sugar sees one team devise a sweater that features flashing text and a camera on the front.

The BBC One programme airs as Juniper Research forecasts that more than 100 million smartwatches will be in use worldwide by 2019, with a host of premium brand launches over the next 12 to 18 months bringing the category into ‘mainstream consumer consciousness’.

Juniper also anticipates that smartwatches will slowly gain more sales outlets as brands outside the technology sector, such as luxury watch maker TAG Heuer, enter the smartwatch space. It also reckons high functionality and premium branding means that the average smartwatch price will remain above $200 until 2020 at the earliest.

However, analyst GfK says that smartwatches face challenges as a payment system, following Apple’s announcment that its upcoming Apple Watch will feature a contact-less payment feature Apple Pay. Security experts have also said that the Apple Watch will become a target for hackers.

A recent GfK survey asking 1,000 smartphone owners in China, Germany, South Korea, the UK and the US indicates that people in these countries see potential in using smartwatches to ‘carry’ tickets for passenger transport or as security keys to their computers and online accounts. The devices can also be used for sports activities, navigation, phone calls, proof of ID and making payment at the checkout.

GfK says that the US and China are the only ones interested in using wearable tech to make mobile payments.

"Mobile payment, i.e. using a smartphone to pay at the checkout with near field communication (NFC) technology, hasn’t proved very popular so far," it said in a statement.

"In theory, using a smartwatch at the checkout would be even more convenient than getting out a smartphone, but only 35 per cent of respondents across the five countries surveyed are interested in this facility at present.

"The real potential for this is in China, where interest increases to 54 per cent of those surveyed, compared with 40 per cent in the US and only 28 percent in South Korea and 27 percent in the UK. In Germany, just 20 per cent of those asked say they would use a smartwatch to make payments."

Across all five countries, 38 per cent of those asked say they would be interested in using a smartwatch as an ID card when going abroad or visiting the authorities. Once again, China and the US are out in front in being open to this idea, with 57 and 41 per cent respectively, followed by South Korea and the UK, with 33 and 28 per cent. The Germans are most critical – just one fifth say would use a smartwatch as an ID card.

Here’s a clip from The Apprentice’s wearable tech episode:

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