I recently wrote an article for Seattle design firm, Artefact, about the exploding trend in wearable fitness devices that are entering the market. Here’s an abbreviated version. Read the full article here.
Make some room in your junk drawer – that old pedometer is about to find a new home. The market is exploding with new technology targeting both consumers who want more control over their personal fitness and those looking to change their lifestyle to improve their overall health. This emerging trend centers on the idea that we want to collect biometric and environmental information on what we do, how we eat, when we sleep, and even how we feel. Some folks call it the Quantified Self movement, which is a fancy name for people that like to collect data on their daily habits to analyze or share with others. From established brands like Polar and Nike, to upstarts such as Jawbone and other independent manufacturers, the personal fitness space is getting crowded with wearable devices that can collect personal data and talk to our ever-present smartphones.
Despite the proliferation of gadgets, it’s difficult to pinpoint one that really stands out. A lot of the new wearable devices count calories and track users’ movements, so companies are trying to differentiate themselves through accessories, add-ons, and feature sets that, for good or bad, approach the challenge of data collection and analysis in similar ways. Still, there are some interesting options out there, so let’s take a look.
- It’s all in the wrist. What’s old is new again. Wristwatches are ubiquitous, making them ideal for companies like Polarand Garmin to convert them into wearable computers. Capable of handling many functions that were up until very recently, the domain of much larger devices, these multitasking timepieces are becoming more robust, offering a lot of functionality that let runners and bikers leave their phones at home so they can exercise without distraction.
- New wearable options. Beyond the wrist, other solutions come in designs that can be clipped, Velcroed, or hung form your body. Despite their migration away from the wrist, the data collection options remain similar.
- Make it social. Where once products differentiated themselves with social networking capabilities, we’ve come to expect our products to share with the world.
- Not-so-everyday products. Just as TVs are becoming more and more connected, so too are other common household items.Fitbit has been doing a nice job with their Ultra wearable device/iPhone app solution (a lightweight clip/iPhone app combination) and is now extending the experience into everyday objects.