The State Of Fitness Trackers 2016 – A Manifesto
In less than a decade, fitness trackers have gone from a curious conversation piece that only a few early adopters wore to ubiquitous devices that can be found on everyone’s wrists. So many of us are tracking our steps, logging our food, and more, and the market has exploded. More than 78 million wearables were sold in 2015, up over 170% from 2014, and by 2019, the fitness tracker market is expected to be worth more than $5 billion USD.
A Fitness Tracker Manifesto
With all of the developments happening in wearable fitness technology, and with all of the money flowing through this sector, we think it’s time to stake a step back and evaluate where it’s been, where it’s going, and what it all means. We’ve created this Fitness Tracker Manifesto, a graphical look at what’s out there in fitness tracker land and how it all impacts wearers, along with some informed predictions about the future of the industry.
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A Large and Crowded Field
Even though many people think only of a Fitbit when they think of fitness trackers (and for good reason, as it currently has the largest share of the market), there are actually more than 100 companies in the fitness tracker game.
This huge number includes the big names you know, like Jawbone, Apple, Sony, Nike, and Microsoft. But there are also newer companies, like Misfit and Bragi, which are forging ahead through the fitness tracker frontier to new terrain, with an impressive degree of success.
And then there are the little guys trying to break in with low cost trackers, like China’s Xiaomi, and doing a pretty good job.
As for where the developments are taking place, most of the innovators in wearable fitness tracking are concentrated in the United States and in Western Europe, though notable businesses are located in Eastern Asia and China as well.
Not Just For the Wrist
It’s also important to point out that while most fitness trackers are wrist-worn wearables, there are other types of trackers out there that are worn somewhere else on the body or, like smart scales and smart cycling computers, don’t get worn at all. For example, smart jewellery is a growing piece of the market, combining attractive physical adornment with the technological convenience of smart notifications and more.
Similarly, there are trackers that are worn as headphones, as straps around the chest, or on some other part of the body, and there are trackers that are apps rather than standalone devices.
This latter category is larger than you might think; smartphones actually have almost all the tracking functionality of your average tracker, and for a lot of people, that’s more than enough.
Why buy a separate tracker, they figure, when it’s easier and more affordable to download an app, tap the screen a few times, pop your phone in your pocket, and get moving?
Finally, there are new, unconventional fitness wearables like smart clothing that can measure all sorts of data and provide new insights about a wearer’s health.
What We’re Tracking, Now and In the Future
Steps, distance, calories, time active, and sleep — these seem to be the five main data points that fitness trackers measure.
Some can track more advanced metrics like heart rate, blood oxygen levels, recovery rate, and more, while others can automatically detect the type of exercise you’re doing and count reps.
Trackers with onboard GPS can measure distance with great precision, and those with altimeters can track elevation, usually as a “flights climbed” measurement.
Paired with either the manufacturer’s app or a third party app, these trackers can also work as a total health tool, with food logging for calories in versus calories out, coaching and motivation, and goal setting.
What will the fitness trackers of the future be able to measure and keep tabs on?
There’s speculation about automatic calorie counting — yes, many trackers can estimate calories burned with fairly good accuracy, but eventually, it’s expected that trackers will be even more accurate because they will measure blood glucose levels.
Trackers may also be able to measure blood pressure to let you know if you’re overexerting yourself or, more importantly, if you have serious symptoms that should be checked out by a medical professional.
More emotional health features will likely be included in future tracker iterations. For example, beyond the basic breathing exercises that a select few trackers offer, look for features that can determine stress levels by measuring galvanic skin response, or can assess the changes in your metabolism with regular exercise.
The Tracker Game Plays On
Fitness trackers, in their current form, have been available to consumers for less than a decade. They’ve caught on incredibly quickly, though, and now it’s hard to imagine what our lives were like before we were obsessed with our step counts, consumed with sleep data, and planning our lives around when we needed to charge our devices.
Trackers are everywhere: on our wrists, for sale in all kinds of stores, and in the US and Canada, they’re even in Happy Meals (with disastrous results, but still.) We love having all of this information about ourselves, and the manufacturers of these wearables are more than happy to give us new and interesting ways to use and analyse it.
The fitness tracker market is a large one that’s still evolving and growing. It’s a lot to take in, and it’s useful to know what the future holds.
That’s why we drew up our Fitness Tracker Manifesto: it’s a great tool to help you identify the different types and brands of trackers out there, learn where the innovation is taking place, and get a grasp of their capabilities, both present and future.
It can help inform any fitness tracker purchase you may be contemplating, but mostly, it’s a compact look at an exciting tech field.
Check it out and let us know what you think — we’d love to hear your thoughts on what it all means.
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