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Wednesday
Apr302014

Wearable technology and fitness trackers: possibilities are endless

For those who aren’t involved in technology on a daily basis, it can be very confusing. Not just how it works and how to work it, but the ever-changing landscape and players are different from one day to the next.

This is no different in the world of wearable technology and fitness tracking. That is, for the wearable technology illiterate, monitoring devices like Jawbone Up, Fitbit, Polar Electro's Loop, MYZONE's platform, and even your phone, to name a few.

These devices can do simple tasks like count the number of steps taken during a walk or workout, or show how many calories have been burned. More advanced devices can detect body movement, identify what you are doing, and report on a number of biological signals, like body temperature, pulse and oxygen level.

The questions now are: what is next and who are going to be the players.

Recent news may help answer the latter, but, again, it can change in a blink of an eye. Nike has reportedly closed down the Nike FuelBand department. While it hasn’t gone on record as such, Nike did tell CNET that it was laying off its hardware division, the maker of the FuleBand. And Facebook got into the game earlier in April when it purchased the maker of Moves, a fitness tracker app.

Despite Nike - one of the first to jump into the fray - bowing out, the future is certainly bright. According to the NPD Group Wearable Technology Study, more than half of participants (52%) said they have heard of wearable technology device and one-third are likely to buy one.

“The market is now large enough to accommodate a variety of products aimed at all levels of athlete - from serious performance-minded consumers to hobbyists - a sure sign of maturity,” said Ben Arnold, executive director, industry analyst  at The NPD Group, on the group’s website.

The International Data Group said earlier this month on Investors.com that it feels the industry will triple in 2014.

So, what is the future? The way technology has exploded in the past couple decades, the sky is the limit.

Bryan O’Rourke, Fitness Industry Technology Council president, concurs.

“We are just putting our pinkie in the water,” he said. “This is just the beginning of a revolution and what we are using now is small (compared to the future).

“The present technology has a low barrier for entry; everyone is jumping in on the fringe. There are more massive aspects of this market which will become huge and have yet to reveal itself.”

Bryan O'RourkeWhat O’Rourke sees as the future in wearable technology and fitness trackers will benefit many groups – users, health clubs, medical community and the healthcare system. Each of these areas taking the new technology and moving forward with it will benefit everyone with primary prevention, motivation to work out and be healthier, and lower healthcare costs.

“I hope this technology can provide primary prevention (tracking),” O’Rourke said. “If we have monitoring of certain basic aspects of our physiology in a streaming way, and we can integrate it into healthcare and primary prevention activities, then we enter a world of doing it as a viable option.”

O‘Rourke said the possibilities are endless: how one sleeps; hydration, blood or glucose levels; oxygen in blood. And, all of this could be done in non-invasive ways in less (if any) doctor visits.

And let’s not forget the applications in the club. It is already changing the way some trainers and clients work together – Life Time Fitness and Anytime Fitness are among many chains that have their trainers “friended” by their clients via fitness trackers so they know everything clients do.

“The gym market has long wanted to extend beyond its present reach,” O’Rourke said in a New York Times article. “There’s going to be the merging of the digital and physical worlds from a service perspective, just like it is in retail shopping.”

Look out health and fitness world, who knows what the future holds.

 

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