PatSnap Industry report: The year of the wearables

What a year 2015 has been! We don't know about you, but here at PatSnap HQ it has flown by. We've seen a variety of different technologies come and go, with many surpassing our expectations. Tucked in amongst the top technology crazes of this year are the wearables, an industry which has boomed over the last 12 months as its popularity has grown amongst consumers. The term 'Wearable Electronics" relates to a device or product worn by a person to integrate a variety of digital media into their daily lives.

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Although a lot of the technology in this industry is nothing new within private sectors, like the military and medical, its growth of popularity within the general consumer market has increased massively, due to more stylish looking designs from well known brands. Many experts in the industry believe Google Glass was the first product to bridge the gap between private sectors and general consumers. It's predicted that by 2018, the wearables industry will be worth around 12 billion US dollars.

In an article, wareable.com documented the top 50 wearable game-changers taking the market by storm. As predicted, Apple's smartwatch grabbed the top spot not only because consumers would recognise their strong brand image, but also for the technology that lies within. In terms of popularity between the different styles of wearables, wrist worn designs have taken the top spot, probably because they are the most convenient to wear, and look similar to your standard watch. Wrist worn designs make up 90% of wearable tech available around the world. 

In this industry report, we use PatSnap Insights to take a look at this field, to find out who are the market leaders, where are the top filings by geographical location and what are the areas of high litigation activity.

Key Market leaders

The search string 'wearable AND IPC: A61' was used to generate this technology report. This search brought forward 19,206 single patent documents. As you can see from the snapshots below, 67.44% of the total number are pending, and 32.56% have actually been granted. To the far right of the image below you can see the type of patents divided between 'Invention, Design & Utility'. The Invention patents account for 98.49% of all the publications, both granted and pending.

Amongst other things, PatSnap Insights can be used to establish key players within a field of interest. You can see results by geographical location, patenting year or specific technology region. We chose the top companies innovating in this area of research over a period of 20 years. The larger bubbles indicate higher numbers of patents at that time by a specific company. The largest bubble below in 2007 holds 112 patents and belongs to 'Procter & Gamble,' which allows you to understand a company's history within a technology space.

From a pharmaceutical point of view, wearables have massively contributed to industry worth. Consumers appreciate the convenience of being able to monitor their bodies whilst exercising. There have been a number of court cases that have used wearable technology to prove that someone is or isn't liable for health care.

Geographical Influence & IPC differentiation

Following on from this, we switched to researching the top geographical location for wearable innovation. We wanted to understand where most wearable innovation was happening in the world and if there was any correlation between top IPC codes and geographical locations.

Below is a geographical breakdown of the top filing regions around the globe. The thermometer on the left indicates the more densely patented regions on the map. The red region, covering parts of the US holds 8,841 patents, which represents 46% of the world's share of patents related to wearables. The USA declared 2015 to be 'the year of healthcare for wearables' and in a recent survey found that 40% of participants were interested in buying a smartwatch.

When examining reams of intellectual property sometimes it can be a little daunting when trying to distinguish where they belong across the IPC spectrum. As you can see below, PatSnap Insights divides your patent documents into the top 10 IPC regions within a field of technology. A61B, a subsidiary of A61, covers 'Diagnosis, Surgery; Identification' and claims the most patents with 8,800. The second largest region is A61F which covers 'Prostheses; medical devices; treatment devices' and this accounts for 4,292 patents. The graph is useful for people planning to innovate in a certain area, allowing you to establish common IPC regions of competitors and monitor recent patenting activity.

Special Patents

This section on PatSnap Insights is solely for patents that hold unusual figures and statistics. The technology industry of wearables is a fast paced, innovative space that is constantly changing and growing. Being able to identify key patents that have unusual statistics is important when planning to innovate into the space. The first area we looked at in detail is the top 10 patents in terms of most citations. The top patent 'US44994950' covers an invention related to systems of bio-medical devices that have two or more modules, where both or all of which may be implanted in the body of a human or animal. It is the highest cited patent within our technology search, being cited an impressive 876 times since it was published back in 1985. This is an important point to note because patents that are frequently cited by subsequent patents indicate that future patents will also likely build upon the technology of this particular patent.

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*Snap shot from PatSnap Insights*

Technology Landscape & Litigation Cases

Landscapes in PatSnap are an extremely powerful tool. They enable you to see where your patents lie in comparison to competitors, and also let you see where the most densely populated regions are on your map - matched with the corresponding key words and phrases. As you can see, to the bottom right of the snapshot below we can see that the most populated region houses the keywords, 'Monitor, Sensor, Physiologic, Measure, Signal.' From here, we can identity that those words seem to be most related to our topic of wearables. What we could do next is segment this area and use it as a key point of focus if we want to refine our results down further.

Towards the left you will see a red litigation flag, which indicated that this patent has been involved in some sort of litigation battle with competitors. On the landscape you can refine your search even further and click on this marker, which will bring up additional information related to that patent.

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*Snap shot from PatSnap Analytics*

We can't wait to see what's next for the wearables industry. With so many companies getting involved with wearable intellectual property, you as a PatSnap user will be the first to know! We can't imagine seeing this industry slowing down any time soon, and if you have a wearable gadget, we would love to hear what you think is next for this industry. Only this week, Google was granted a patent for 'Solar-Powered Contact Lenses'. The idea is for a wearable that people can't see you wearing. Maybe that is the direction we are moving in next?

Watch this space!