Do you wear a fitness tracker? If you do, you aren’t alone. About 1 in 6 people wear the popular devices to keep track of their physical activity throughout the day. Some people wear them as part of a training regimen, others are trying to lose weight, while some are just curious about how many steps they take every day.
Regardless of the reason for wearing them, though, fitness trackers are a booming business: Fitness trackers alone account for nearly a third of the $3 billion wearable technology industry. This is despite questions about their utility (studies show that they don’t always make a measurable difference to weight-loss efforts or overall fitness) and studies that show many users abandon their devices within six months.
In fact, despite all appearances to the contrary, the market continues to grow, and demand for new devices is high. In fact, as with any technology, consumers expect new developments and new features in their devices, and the coming months and years will not disappoint.
Goodbye Utilitarian Design, Hello Style
Until the introduction of smart watches, most fitness trackers were relatively simple devices, usually a plain silicone band equipped with a small sensor/processor. The designs have changed a bit over the years to include actual displays, and it was possible to find replacement bands that were somewhat more stylish (or at least color coordinated to your outfit), but even then, it’s fairly obvious what the device is.
The latest designs of fitness trackers are taking a page from the smart watch book and designing trackers that look less like the fitness bands we know, and more like stylish watches and accessories. Essentially, these devices are watches with fitness trackers built in. However, the “traditional” fitness bands are also getting makeovers as well. Expect to see slimmer bands, including some that look like jewelry, as consumers demand trackers that are both practical and attractive.
New Form Factors
For the last few years, fitness trackers have almost exclusively been worn on the wrist. Moving forward, that paradigm is shifting — and wrist trackers may soon be seen as old-fashioned or even obsolete.
One of the major drawbacks to devices worn on the wrist is that they have limitations when it comes to collecting accurate data. Not only do monitors worn on the wrist fail to provide the same detailed data as ECG monitors, which place monitors on strategic areas of the body, but when the accelerometers are placed on extremities to measure movement, they don’t always capture accurate information about how much the body is actually moving. If you have ever seen an increase in your step count when you haven’t been walking — but you’ve been typing, folding laundry, or just having an animated conversation — you’ve seen this in effect.
For that reason, wearable devices are moving away from the wrist and onto other parts of the body. Device developers are working on ways to incorporate sensors into athletic clothing, shoes, and even glasses to collect more accurate data for better insights.
Not only does moving the sensors to better locations help improve data collection, newer fitness trackers are also being equipped with better sensors.
For example, one of the primary complaints about the current crop of trackers is that it doesn’t always provide an accurate reading of the number of calories burned during exercise. In order to get more accurate calorie readings, measuring the heart rate is important. While some of the current fitness trackers offer this feature, again, with the sensors on the wrist, the readings aren’t the most accurate, so engineers are working on ways to improve these readings.
However, heart rate and calories burned aren’t the only measures of health. Soon, you can expect to see fitness monitors that include sensors designed to collect such data as blood glucose, hydration, and oxygen via sweat. This information can help athletes improve their performance and give healthcare providers more in-depth insight into their patients’ progress.
When used properly, fitness trackers can benefit anyone looking to improve his or her health and/or athletic performance. With the new developments coming in these ubiquitous devices, they are bound to become even more useful, and beneficial to both amateur and professional athletes alike.