GETTING SMART

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About five years ago, it seemed that the world was agog over an improbable invention called Google Glass.

The potential for this product was staggering-a computer you wear on your face that connects you to the Internet, takes pictures and video and assists with virtually any informational request. Luxottica and VSP got involved. Everyone believed it was just a matter of time before Google Glass saw explosive growth. But it was expensive, and-as we ultimately learned-really not ready for public consumption.

However, it established a market for myriad other wearable products from companies such as Sony, Intel, Microsoft, Apple and lesser-known companies such as Recon, Vuzix, Meta, Lumus LTD, and LaForge Optical. In fact, there are now more than 16 entries in the smart eyewear category (which also includes virtual and augmented reality models), and it is projected to exceed 10 million units by 2018.

It’s also been projected that category growth will exceed 19% per year over the next five years, wherein the market revenue will be more than $8 billion.

What does all this mean for optical? Simply put, it’s the biggest revenue opportunity since the introduction of progressive lenses. And a number of industry players are jumping on the bandwagon.

Smith, a division of Safilo, is introducing a wearable product to help induce meditation and Oakley has just come to market with a product that monitors response rates during exercise. And a new company launched by industry veterans, called PogoTec, has come up with a platform that can allow any eyewear maker to turn their frames into vehicles for smart components such as a mini-camera-compact devices that can be attached to metal tracks within the temples. Thus far, ClearVision Optical and FGX (purveyors of the Foster Grant brand) have partnered with PogoTec and will be introducing their products soon.

Retailers big and small are also entering the space, with the most notable being Eyeglass World’s California locations. This is not to suggest that the average ECP convert her dispensary into an electronics store (although making eye-wearables available will certainly be good business). But many smartglasses purchasers will need prescriptions.

As one smartglasses pundit put it, “If the optical business doesn’t want to provide Rxs for smart eyewear, Best Buy will.”

email me at FG@VisionCareProducts.com

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