5th January 2016
Up until recently, when someone decided to get fit, they would usually sign up to the gym. Many would also opt for a personal trainer who would guide and motivate them to achieve their fitness goals, recording their progress in a log, which became a spreadsheet-style document in which entries were made manually.Thanks to technology advancements, it is now possible to automate the monitoring and recording of fitness activities, whilst integrating them into accessories we can wear. It started with an object as simple as a pedometer to wearable sensors such as smart bands we know today.
Popularity of these fitness and well-being applications continues to grow steadily.
Wearable activity trackers for improving health and fitness represent the most prominent offerings in the Internet of Things. The Health Summit predicts that by 2017, 1.7 billion people will use health apps on a smart phone or spec device and 70% of all apps target consumers and fitness right now. While the Health Research Institute found that 68% of consumers would wear employer-provided wearables streaming anonymous data to an information pool in exchange for a reduction in their health insurance premiums.
One important differentiating factor will be the level of accuracy that the device can achieve – the more accurate the data, the greater the chance the user will have of achieving their fitness goals. Many of the daily fitness trackers on the market have started to add heart rate monitoring via PPG (Photoplethysmogram), like the Apple Watch, with the aim of achieving greater accuracy. Many products are now designed to be worn on the upper torso, but the chest strap can be uncomfortable and inflexible. In addition, several of the products that work in the vicinity of the heart are not designed for a 24/7 use – they are worn for an exercise session only and then you have to switch to a second separate device.
Given that the accuracy of the data is improving incrementally, the scope to introduce wearables into health and wellbeing has grown significantly. Like all new technology applications, there are a number of challenges that still need to be addressed, which the industry is working on. These are:
- the handling of the enormous volume of data produced
- utilizing wearable data to make meaningful analysis
- integration and data sharing with other health information systems
- risk of exposing sensitive personal data.
It is unbelievable how much technology altered our view regarding our health and fitness in the past decades and the rapid rate that it is getting more accurate. This has lead to wearable activity devices being incorporated into other sectors such as: health, sport and even around insurance premiums, amongst others. This trend is only going to continue to grow with consumers and millennials, along with the Generation Z and beyond, being ever more connected. We could potentially see the boundaries of physical and virtual worlds blur as the years flow on.