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2014 Accessories: The Sky’s the Limit

April 29, 2014 By Fred Towns, President, New Age Electronics
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In an article last year, we took a deep-dive into the hottest accessory categories driving the CE market, zeroing in on opportunities around tablets and smartphones, audio and home automation. Selling accessories within these categories continues to be critical for success in CE, especially with so many new products being brought to market and manufacturers continuously rolling out next-generation technology for existing products. A recent report by CEA, CE Accessories at Retail, projected an increase of $13 million in accessories sales, sustained by the popularity of tablet and smartphone accessories, headphones and ear buds, raising 2014’s CE accessories sales projection to $8.5 billion.

Along with these accessories categories, there’s a core group of emerging products driving the next surge of innovation in CE—both in terms of devices and associated accessories. According to CEA’s Sales and Forecast Report, emerging product categories will grow by 107 percent year-over-year in 2014 and drive 65 percent of total industry revenue growth. Accessories within these emerging categories— wearable devices, robotics, app-enabled devices, LED lighting and added-opportunities within home automation—will be central to this growth.

The influx of wearable devices that pair with a user’s smartphone or tablet, especially health monitoring devices that track lifestyle activities, have had huge success in the market. These devices are evolving to incorporate biometric technology that performs high-level functions, from heart rate and glucose level monitoring to calorie tracking with every bite. Many of these devices are in the form of state-of-the-art smart watches, a key subset of the wearable device category. Leading manufacturers are taking advantage of this market by coming out with trendy, stylish watches that can be sold into the fashion channel. Wearable glasses are another key subset—hands-free, eyewear technology with the capability to take high-quality still shots and 1080p HD video are well suited for a range of consumer lifestyles. 

Robotics and other app-enabled products compatible with iOS and Android are also playing a big role in the emerging product revolution. These devices pair cutting-edge technology and innovation with practical and entertaining applications, from carrying and picking up objects to performing dances and playing games. The next generation of robots will encompass self-awareness: the device knows when its battery is low, prompting a trip to its charging station. These ultramodern robots have the capability to project images and text for presentations or for personal use—users will be able to set the robot as an alarm and turn on its projector for the latest traffic report and weather all before they get out of bed in the morning. Over the next year, robotic devices will have telepresence capabilities suitable for business applications. Imagine a cradle that holds a tablet during your next group conference call, providing a hands-free speaker and simultaneously adjusting to focus on the specific person talking in the room via voice-detecting technology.

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