How Wearable Fitness Technology Has Developed Over Time
While it may seem wearable technology only recently evolved, it has been around since the 17th century – long before the invention of electricity. The Chinese of the Qing Dynasty used an abacus ring that had 9 rows of tiny beads to make mathematical calculations when they were away from their larger “desktop” abacus.
The invention of the micro-chip in the 1980s allowed manufacturers to start making electronic devices smaller. As the chips got more refined and smaller in size, so did the electronics using them. As technology continued to evolve in the world of fitness tracking, pedometers gave way to accelerometers which started the wearable fitness boom we are currently experiencing.
In 2008, Fitbit® – then a technology startup company – came out with their first wristband that used wearable fitness technology. It was called the Classic. It tracked much of the same information that is still gathered today, such as steps taken, distance travelled, calories consumed and expended, etc. Since then, other companies have emerged with their own versions of fitness trackers. Most still use the basic technology of using the accelerometer.
The development of the smartphone and Bluetooth technology led to the development of applications that once the data collected by the fitness tracker was uploaded, an app could compile it into information the user could understand and use to make changes.
Fitness tracking is moving from the wrist to other pieces of clothing, especially sports footwear for walking or running. From pouches strapped to shoes that hold a fitness tracker to shoes that have fitness sensors built into them, as does the Genesis 2 from Under Armour®, fitness tracking is also going wrist-free. From here, the company plans to incorporate sensors into other types of sports footwear.
However, the real value of a fitness tracker is how the information collected and compiled is used. If the user does nothing with the information, then the fitness tracker is nothing more than a useless device. Some people are held in a belief that a fitness tracker will for example, help them lose weight. A fitness tracker alone will not do that, but if the user uses the information their fitness tracker collects to make changes to their exercise or eating plan, then it becomes a useful device for weight loss.
Where is the wearable fitness technology field heading in the future? It seems to be heading in the direction of doing more with making the information collected more usable. For example, fitness technology trackers can already tell you that you had 5 hours of poor sleep, but in the future, they will show you why your sleep was poor: too much to eat or drink, not enough exercise, room temperature too hot, etc. – information you can use to make changes aimed at improving the quality of your sleep.
By all accounts, fitness technology is here to stay. The future in this field should continue to be interesting and beneficial to improving quality of life for all of its users.
Is Wearable Fitness Technology Just Another Fad?
Right now, the wearable fitness technology and associated sales is booming. In just the last four years, sales exploded at an astonishing rate of 1,886%! As far as fitness trackers alone, sales jumped from $43 million in 2009 to $854 million in 2013; 2014 sales alone were $1.2 billion, equating to a sustained 35% yearly increase since their beginning. The question is how long can this massive growth be sustained? Or will it die out as quickly as it grew?
To address this question, we must first ask ourself the purpose of wearing a fitness device. Many people hold the belief that just wearing a fitness device will help them reach their goal. In reality, just the act of wearing will not do anything toward reaching a goal. For seven out of 10 people, the “newness” will soon wear off and their fitness tracker will end up sitting in a drawer, because they had false expectations as far as what it would do; two of the 10 will use some of the data collected to help them reach their goal; only one out of the 10 will analyze the date and use it to its fullest extent.
But for the three people that use the data collected by the device, and make changes that help them get closer to their goal, tracking devices can be a big help for them and will most likely stay in use.
So it comes down to the accountability of the wearer. How will the person use the data the device produces? For example, before purchasing a wearable device how did you know how far you walked? How many calories you expended? How did that relate to the number of calories you consumed?
If losing weight was your goal, you must burn 3,500 more calories per week than you consume to lose a pound. Without a way to measure this data, you really have no idea if you had a calorie deficit that week or not.
But with a fitness tracker, all this data is at your fingertips. If you choose to use it, it can help you. Now if you are not getting in your 10,000 steps per day, you’ll know that you have to up the number of steps you take daily. If you are eating too many calories, you’ll have to adjust to a healthier eating plan. However, if you just look at the data and do not react to it, then you might as well not wear your fitness tracker, because it is not doing you any good.
As new wearable fitness technology products emerge, others will go the way of the dinosaur. Many in the industry think the way devices are being marketed has to change. Right now techno geeks are creating products and then finding a market. Experience says the market must first exist and then devices created to fill that market. Once this shift happens, there should be some stability in the market and devices will keep coming out to fill the existing need instead of the other way around.