The U.S. wearables market (i.e. smart watches, fitness trackers) has struggled to reach the mainstream, with less than 20% of adults expected to use wearable tech at least once/mo. in 2018. eMarketer projects wearable use will increase 11.9% YOY over the coming 12 months, but that growth percentage is down from 15.2% YOY in 2017 (and expected to slow to 7.7% in 2019). Smart watch sales will drive the increased usage, accounting for 55% of all wearables by 2022 (up from 21% in ’16). Not everyone is convinced wearables have reached peak growth though, IDC anticipates the number of devices shipped will double by 2021 (accounting for higher adoption rates in China) and CCS Insight anticipates wearables becoming a $34 billion industry by 2020.
Howie Long-Short: Under Armour (UAA) and Adidas (ADDYY) have both recently exited the wearable tech space. UAA announced in November it would no longer manufacture fitness trackers, instead building software to integrate with AAPL and Samsung (5930) products, while earlier this month ADDYY announced that it was closing its Digital Sports Division to re-shift its focus on app platforms. While those exits don’t bode well for IDC & CCS’ projections, the wearables market has one potentially game-changing card to play; if it can generate meaningful data reflecting the health benefits associated with usage, subsidized (i.e. insurance) cost programs (which would theoretically result in increased sales) could follow.
Fan Marino: Asics (ASCCF) also recently entered the fitness software space, introducing a mobile application that offers consumers on-demand workouts. Entitled Asics Studio, professional trainers guide users through workouts that are synced with pre-selected playlists to recreate the atmosphere of a boutique fitness class. Strength training, treadmill, fusion (strength and cardio package), outdoor running, elliptical and indoor cycling classes are all available for $9.99/mo. The latest company looking to cash in on the wearable data and analytics market, expected to be worth $838 million by 2022.
Wearables still slow to catch on in the U.S.
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Garmin has introduced a new line of GPS enabled smartwatches designed to compete with Apple (AAPL), Samsung (KRX: 005930) and Fitbit (FIT). The line contains 3 watches; the Vivomove HR (fashion focused hybrid), Vivosport (fitness focused) and Vivoactive 3 (feature packed flagship). The Vivoactive 3 will include Garmin Pay; a contact-less payment system, powered by Fitpay, Inc. The watches, which are now available, range in price from $199-$329.99; significantly less expensive than their high-end Fenix-5 series ($600).
Howie Long-Short: Fitpay provides a technology platform that adds contactless payment capabilities to wearable and loT devices. The company is a subsidiary of NXT-ID Inc. (NXTD) which generated $14.3 million in revenue over the first 6 months of 2017, up from $81K over the same period the year prior. Most the revenue increase comes from another subsidiary, LogicMark, the biggest manufacturer of personal emergency response devices in the United States. NXTD acquired the company in 2016 for $20.9 million in cash and stocks with another $6.5 due should the company meet certain milestones over the next 18 months.
Fan Marino: Garmin is competing with Apple, Samsung and Fitbit in the smartwatch space, but has 2 distinct advantages. Their watches sync with iOS, Android and desktop software and they have batteries that can last for a week without recharging. Those aren’t features that I’m looking for, but it’s something to hang their hat on.
Garmin goes after Apple, Fitbit with new line of smartwatches
Sony (SNE) has announced it will be releasing a new shock proof, crush proof, action camera to compete with GoPro (GPRO). The 1.0 inch 15.3 MP RX0 should deliver superior image quality, as its sensor is bigger than any of GoPro models currently available. The camera shoots video in 4K, is waterproof up to 10 meters and captures slow motion at up to 960 frames/second with a resolution of 1920x1080p, a feature not typically found in a camera priced under $1,000. The RX0 will cost $700 and is expected to ship in October.
Howie Long-Short: GPRO is facing strong competition from Sony, Canon (CAJ), Apple (AAPL) and Samsung (KRX: 005930) in the action camera space and still managed to grow revenues 34% YOY in Q2 ’17. They have the #2 selling drone brand in the U.S., a pilot going for a device designed to capture fully immersive VR content and a mobile editing app that has seen usage increase 112% YOY. I don’t see the RX0 putting a damper on GPRO’s recent momentum.
Fan Marino: The GoPro Hero5 Black is $399. It is roughly the same size as the RX0. For $50 (case) it’s nearly as durable. The control options are slightly different, but each has their benefits. The big difference is the slow-motion capability on the RX0. Is that worth $300? Not for me.
Sony’s latest competitor to the GoPro is a cute black box
MLB offers fans a free weekly (Tuesday evenings) out-of-market virtual reality broadcast, powered by Intel (INTC) True VR. Using the Intel True VR App fans can control the broadcast POV, get access to postgame highlights and on demand replays of each game. To watch the VR steams, you’ll need a Samsung (KRX: 005930) phone, a Gear VR headset and to download the VR app from the Oculus (FB) app store. Curiosity is driving viewers for short windows of time, but the challenge ahead for MLB is figuring out how to keep that viewer tuned in for a 3-hour game.
Howie Long-Short: When Intel was looking for a VR partner, they were looking for 3 things. Defensible IP, scalability and the ability to stream its feed into a two-dimensional screen as well as to head-mounted goggles. It found its match in Voke VR. Intel lead their $12.5 million Series A round in March ’16, before acquiring the company in November 2016.
Fan Marino: True VR offers views down the first base line, from the right field corner and behind home plate, but the most popular views thus far have been the dugout views. That doesn’t surprise me. It’s a chance for fans to get “behind the scenes”, without the content being scrubbed first (i.e. Hard Knocks).
Virtual Reality Reaches The Big Leagues With Intel
NeuLion (TSE: NLN), the digital streaming service who streamed Saturday night’s Showtime (CBS) PPV event on behalf of the UFC, SKY Sports (LON: SKY) and Eleven Sports Network to over 180 countries around the world; experienced significant technical difficulties during its most watched event ever. Transaction volume overwhelmed servers in Florida and California causing widespread outages, a 20-minute delay to the main event and some very disappointed fans to miss the fight. Fans who ordered the PPV event through UFC.tv powered by NLN software, paid $100 for the Mayweather McGregor headliner, but were unable to log-in. Those individuals have since been directed by UFC.tv to email NeuLion for a refund.
Struggled to stream ‘The Money Fight’? UFC.tv customers directed to contact NeuLion
Howie Long-Short: Not sure NLN is long for the streaming business with BAMTech coming on strong, but the company has a growing business licensing technology to consumer electronics companies. Samsung (KRX: 005930), Sony (SNE), LG (KRX: 066570), Panasonic (TYO: 6752), Sharp (TYO: 6753), Philips (PHG) and Toshiba (TYO: 6502) all use NLN video players within their TVs to ensure up to 4K clarity.
Fan Marino: Amateur move to wait until right before the main event to test the stream. You need to leave yourself time to get to the bar, in the event you encounter any issues.