The Overall “Health” of the Wearable Industry

It seems, that everyone has an opinion on the best, most accurate fitness tracker.  But, are your wearables really living up to their intended purpose?  Health-related products are popping up, it seems everyday, but how accurate are they really performing?

Asking these questions, in my opinion, requires categorizing the wearable industry, due to the overwhelming diversity of the industry itself.  I have found, through interviews and conversations, that people are often confused by the term “Wearables“.  Here is a definition from webopedia.com.

Wearables defined: 

Wearable technology (also called wearable gadgets) is a category of technology devices that can be worn by a consumer and often include tracking information related to health and fitness. Other wearable tech gadgets include devices that have small motion sensors to take photos and sync with your mobile devices.–webopedia.com

Looking at fitness designed wearables on the market, starting with the popular fitness trackers, there are a large variety of ways to keep up with your activities. For example, there are waist worn pedometers, wrist worn trackers, cell phones, even fitness clothing has been designed to help track your activities and bio-systems, helmets for cyclists, running shoes that carry tracking hardware, and the list goes on. But, which type of monitor has been determined to be the most accurate?

To determine the accuracy of the industry’s top selling fitness trackers,  Medical researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine designed a study published in the Feb. 10, 2015 publication of the Journal of American Medical Association, to determine the Accuracy of Smartphone Applications and Wearable Devices for Tracking Physical Activity Data (click the link for the full article).

The study measured the accuracy of pocket pedometers, wristbands, and cell phones (Android and iOS applications). Study recruits wore or carried every device at the same time, and walked on treadmills for 500 steps and 1500 steps.  Here is a graph depicting the accuracy.

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The study concluded that cell phones were relatively just as accurate as body worn devices, and usually your less expensive tracker was often more accurate.  It is important to note that, a top performing device, the Jawbone UP24 and the worst the Nike Fuelband, are no longer being manufactured.  Jawbone was liquidated in early 2017, though a new venture in healthcare is afoot, as Healthhub, while Nike is simply discontinued manufacturing the Fuelband.

Fashion, Fitness, Health & Wellness, Safety, and Weight-loss, are a few categories being widely discussed in the wearable technology industry.  Companies are claiming to have the next best thing in helping the masses lose weight faster and more efficiently, or monitor and alter specific health-related issues like Sleep Apnea, Diabetes, Hypertension and Heart-related issues. Products are also designed to monitor your daily activities; walking, running, biking, swimming, yoga, all while tracking Health-related vital signs; Heart-rate, Blood pressure, glucose levels, Oxygen levels, temperature, sleep patterns, gestation, and many other important topics.

The wearable industry is constantly evolving, while the competition seems to be getting tougher and tougher.  The wearable industry doesn’t seem to show many signs of slowing down.  However, the popularity of the industry is still growing, with lots of fashionable accessory designers and manufacturers taking a bite out of the industry as well.  The fashion industry doubtfully will ever go away, which may be a saving grace for the wearable industry in coming years.

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