Innovation explosion: The number of patents filed is spiking with the level of sophistication in wearable products.
Wearing objects on the body that perform a function is, of course, nothing new — but the level of sophistication has exploded in the recent past. Along with this is the number of patent applications that have been filed in order to corner some aspect of the market that could be worth as much as tens of billions of dollars in five years.
To note: 41,301 patents have been published on wearable electronics from 2010 through May 2015, with filings growing at a compound annual growth rate of 40%, according to Lux Research.
When it comes to flexible electronics, including printed, flexible and organic electronics (PFOE) the story is different. While this market segment has been a hotbed research (totaling 140,926 patents since 2010), the overlap between PFOE patents and wearables patents is tiny, just 651 publications.
Interestingly, Samsung is leading the charge as the largest patent filer in both categories, accounting for 4% of all wearables patents and 10% of all PFOE patents, Lux also said. The firm believes the lack of overlapping patents between PFOE and wearables indicates a need and opportunity to develop and apply these technologies specifically for wearable electronic devices.
Google, Microsoft and many other leading technology companies are filing their share of patent requests as well given the explosion of wearable devices for a seemingly endless number of applications.
Lux Research also found e-paper displays, conductive inks, and thin-film batteries fall into the ‘overlooked’ category as technologies that have a strong fit to wearables but haven’t seen much innovation focus on wearable electronics applications.
Not surprisingly, consumer communication, health and fitness see the most activity. Specifically, by end application, Lux found 11% of global wearable patents are for consumer communications applications such as entertainment, device control, and smartphone replacements. Health monitoring/athletics are close behind at 10% – but account for a full 25% of Samsung’s filings.
Further, when compared with global data, Samsung focuses on arm/hand (35%) and head/neck (28%) form factors — this reflects the consumer electronic giant’s smartwatch and virtual reality headgear products — while 53% of its wearable patents are relevant to user output components, such as displays and speakers.