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The Future of Wearables? Consolidation.

Investors say the space will get more interesting with coming smartwatches and sensors.

Shutterstock / JMicic

At the Bloomberg Next Big Thing Summit on Monday, investor Esther Dyson predicted a coming wave of consolidation for the nascent wearables sector.

“It’s extremely crowded now,” said Dyson, chair of EDventure Holdings, during the opening session of the conference at the Cavallo Point Lodge in Sausalito, Calif., which offered attendees a postcard view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

It’s not that she isn’t a fan of the space. Her wrist basically echoed her point, as she came onstage wearing a Nike FuelBand, the Misfit Shine and the Basis. Dyson has also invested in the space personally, putting money into GOQii.

But the wearables market has already become commoditized, cluttered with devices that offer very few points of differentiation (check out the long list here). Most count steps, estimate calories and maybe monitor sleep. Many people, however, simply stop using them within a few weeks or months. The data doesn’t end up helping them make meaningful lifestyle changes.

Bloomberg’s Emily Chang, who moderated the session, made this point. She has tried a series of them, but the habit never took.

It’s also a low-margin business, which is one reason Nike is already stepping out of the hardware side.

Dyson said wearables will get much more interesting as the devices include more sensors, notably one that can monitor glucose levels without pricking the skin. That could provide continual feedback, showing people exactly how the things they ingest affect their health. (Various researchers are at work on this problem, including at Google X, but we’re likely years away from such a medical device earning regulatory approval.)

During the same session, angel investor Ron Conway said that various smartwatches rumored to be nearing the market could point to an inflection point for the space. He said they’ll go from offering basic health metrics — which seems to appeal to a barbell niche of the very healthy and very unhealthy — to offering smartphone-like functionality, including the ability to check emails and make calls.

“I think that’s when you’ll see them become even more mainstream,” he said.

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