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IoT device shipments to grow 9.8% despite COVID-19 uncertainty

07 Apr 2020

Shipments of IoT devices will grow by almost 10% in 2020 to reach 718 million units, despite widespread economic uncertainty worldwide in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Canalys.

This may be welcome news for consumer IoT vendors looking for growth in markets seeing unprecedented disruption, but Canalys also projects a strong downturn this year, and claims vendors must be proactive to ensure they weather the incoming storm.

Vendors are currently taking advantage of the ‘stay-at-home economy’ by shifting focus to devices which promote remote learning, communication, personal health and exercise and entertainment.

“Hearable vendors still shipping devices via online channels have quickly shifted their marketing messages to highlight key benefits, particularly their conference calling abilities,” says Canalys research analyst Cynthia Chen. 

“Consumers are looking for wireless audio devices that offer flexibility for work, education and play.

"Canalys predicts that smart personal audio device shipments will increase by 15.5% in 2020 to become the fastest-growing consumer IoT segment this year,” says Chen. 

“More time spend sitting around means there’s also an opportunity for wearable band vendors to increase engagement with users by promoting access to premium workouts and the accompanying devices that help them stay active.”

Chen says the company expects wearable band shipments to increase by 3.8% in 2020. 

Canalys remains optimistic about the timeline of COVID-19’s rampage, expecting the virus to be under control by Q3 despite grim predictions regarding the virus’s spread and lasting impact, especially in the United States.

“China will be a key growth driver in 2020 as the country is confident that the pandemic is well under control,” says Canalys Senior Analyst Jason Low. 

“Based on our first-hand experience in China, the government’s strict regulatory measures have contained the spread of COVID-19. 

“With safety measures in place to prevent its re-emergence, economic activities will resume quickly and consumers will start to spend again,” says Low.

"The same is likely to happen in other countries when countermeasures kick in.” 

The biggest challenge faced by industry players stems from economic uncertainty, with major events and updates occurring daily around the world as the death toll rises.

“From supply disruptions to demand shock, many companies are well informed about the significant challenges they are facing right now,” says Low.

“Vendors must take additional actions to mitigate the impact. ‘Wait and see’ is no longer an option.

“The pandemic will be the critical moment that splits future market leaders from laggards, depending on the actions companies take now,” says Low.

“In addition to more proactive and targeted marketing to stay connected with consumers, it is good time to form new partnerships, for example with new online service and content providers, to grow user bases for both parties with additional services targeting stay-at-home consumers.”