Wearable Tech Means Big Boom in Mobile Data, Cisco Says

"Mobile" once referred simply to phones, then tablets too — and now it includes all kinds of wearable devices like smart watches, health trackers and Google Glass. Thanks to all of those new gadgets transmitting info, the amount of mobile data we use is expected to skyrocket by 2018.

That's according to an annual report from Internet networking giant Cisco, which predicts that mobile data traffic will top 190 exabytes worldwide by 2018.

That would be an 11-fold increase from 2013's traffic, and it's, well, a ton of data. One exabyte is equivalent to a billion gigabytes.

To put that in perspective: 190 exabytes of data is the same as 42 trillion images, or four trillion video clips. It's also 190 times more than all Internet Protocol traffic — both "fixed" wireless connections and mobile combined — generated in 2000, Cisco said.

As that mobile data use expands radiply, so will the number of devices sucking up all that information.

Cisco expects the number of mobile devices and connections to jump from seven billion in 2013 to 10 billion by 2018 — 1.4 times more than the 7.6 billion people the United Nations predicts will be living then.

It's jaw-dropping growth, and one of the major factors is the wearable devices trend: the rising popularity of wearable technology, including smart watches like Pebble, health and fitness trackers, Google Glass and more.

Cisco lumps those devices in a category called "machine-to-machine" connections, which includes other systems like GPS. That category made up about one percent of mobile data traffic in 2013, and Cisco expects that figure to clock in at six percent by 2018.

Specifically, Cisco predicts the number of wearable devices in use will jump from less than 22 million in 2013 to almost 177 million by 2018.

In addition to the wearable trend and more mobile users/connections, Cisco also cited faster speeds and more video as major contributors to the mobile data boom.