Will Wearables Redefine the Mobile Landscape?

When looking at mobile devices of the future, it’s not the form factor that matters; it’s what you can do with it that counts. 

Today, there is still a strong distinction between smartphones versus wearables or smart glasses. However, the lines are blurring. Two out of three respondents in a recent global survey conducted by Dimensional Research and sponsored by Molex expect the mobile device of 2026 to be very different from the devices of today. Further, as many as 63% of respondents believe that within five years, the traditional smartphone could transition to a different form factor, such as a wearable or foldable device. 

In terms of form factor, respondents seem confident in the rise of wearables, with numerous approaches potentially on the table, including devices that would be worn as clothing, glasses, earpieces or on the wrist.  

While traditional smartphones will continue to dominate in the coming years, there is a challenge. As functionality expands, the need for ‘real estate’ inside the phone becomes more and more of a premium to accommodate the evolution of features such as improved battery life, upgraded cameras and advanced processing. It’s no surprise then that a large proportion of US and Canadian stakeholders think that the phone of the future will be bigger than it is today. 

Additionally, the continued rollout of 5G and faster versions of Wi-Fi will improve communications capability and support many more devices, increasing the need for specialized electronics in smartphones and wearables. 

Will wearables redefine the landscape?

The application is the key. Practical, convenient applications invite radical change in product design, driving technology breakthroughs. Wearables for the medical sector are a notable case in point. The rapid development of a range of medical and fitness-oriented sensors, building on breakthrough uses of optical sensors, artificial intelligence, and Micro-Electro-Mechanical System (MEMS) technology, already or will soon enable myriad wearable solutions for various medical applications. Examples include cardiac monitoring by ECG/EKG and the measurement of blood glucose levels and blood pressure. How will these capabilities power and shape preventative healthcare in 2026? 

According to Grand View Research, the global wearable medical devices market was valued at US$16.6 billion in 2020, and it is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 26.8% from 2021 to 2028.

At the moment, North America dominates the market. It accounts for the largest revenue share of 38.1% in 2020, due in part to increases in cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, and cancer within this region. However, the Asia Pacific market is expected to witness exponential growth in the period up to 2028, driven by favorable government initiatives, an increasing geriatric population base, and a general increase in healthcare expenditures in the region.

Trends in mobile medical devices

While straps, clips, and bracelets dominated the market in 2020, the latest developments in smart wearables will deliver multifunctionality and allow monitoring of several parameters, including mobility, respiratory and pulse rates.

For some time now, fitness wristbands have been equipped with sensors to provide wearers with health and fitness recommendations by synchronizing to various smartphone apps, but it’s the cross-over with medical-grade wearables that is driving innovation. With the ability to monitor blood oxygen saturation, track sleep patterns and provide enhanced heart health monitoring, the sophistication and evolution of smart wearables is on the rise.

The future is rich with the potential for mobile medical technology — and a better, connected patient experience is at the center of it. 

ECG monitors now represent the true digital transformation of medical electronics available for the consumer. An ECG read-out can be sent to the user’s clinician to detect conditions such as atrial fibrillation. Wearable blood pressure monitors, a category that is just beginning to emerge, will have the versatility to track blood pressure throughout a range of daily activities.

The winners of today’s innovation race are biosensors, an emerging trend in wearable medical devices that can take the form of a self-adhesive patch, watch, wristband, or one day even connected glasses. Biosensors allow patients to move around while collecting data on activity patterns and variables, including heart rate, respiratory rate and temperature. 

The upward trend in medical wearables and the expansion of trackable health metrics is predicted to increase patient data gathering and interpretation significantly. But, with that data comes complexity. Indeed, all of this data will have to be collected, stored, and transmitted, resulting in further technological complexities. 

The health advantages of wearable medical devices 

These wearable health and fitness trackers provide data directly and conveniently, allowing the user the transparency needed to adopt healthy habits and practices, which can reduce hospital visits and re-admissions and also help to lower soaring healthcare costs. 

Medical wearables offer a huge advantage in enabling remote diagnostics and telehealth, saving time and costs for the patient as well as the healthcare industry and boosting patient morale.

Molex brings critical expertise in this area due to our deep experience in the medical field. But what makes collaborating with Molex unique for our customers is decades of addressing issues in various industries both inside and outside of MedTech.

From developing solutions for the world’s biggest data centers to micro-miniature mobile devices to creating complex solutions for surgical robotics, Molex has the insights and skills to help our customers make our imagined future a reality.

Smart glasses, smart health

When Google Glass stopped consumer production in 2015, many commentators noted that the AR potential of smart glasses could find numerous applications, including the medical field. In theory, smart glasses could supply the user or patient with diagrams, instructions, informational images, and streaming video, as well as simultaneous voice or messaging engagement with their physician. Additionally, the potential for smart glasses to be used in complex surgeries is now being explored and developed.

The Facebook partnership with Ray-Ban on Ray-Ban Stories and the launch from the Singaporean-American group Razer of their Anzu Smart Glasses have made many think again about smart glasses. Xiaomi announced a smart glasses concept supporting the display of AR content for navigation and live translation. And the potential is there for strong, successful healthcare applications: As users peer out of their smart glasses, sensors may be watching back, using technologies like eye-tracking to look for early warning indicators of diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Convergence of mobile and medical 

The convergence of mobile technologies in medical is on its way to becoming a reality where individual users define the ecosystem that best suits their needs. The vision is evolving, and the future is uncertain, but the evolution is inevitable, and it will be fascinating to watch.

Director Corporate Strategy and Corporate Development