Wearable Tech for 2017

24 January

Technology historically gets a bad rap for contributing to our sedentary, modern-day lifestyles. Sitting in front of TVs, aimlessly scrolling our phone screens, sat at office desks all day with eyes never too far away from one type of screen before we drift to the next. But one technology we just can’t seem to get enough of is the wearable kind.

Earlier in January, the BBC published an article questioning the efficiency – and necessity – of fitness trackers for the likes of everyday common-folk, as compared to professional athletes in training. Citing a study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh, it concluded that fitness trackers were “ineffective at sustaining weight loss”, based on one group wearing trackers, which lost 3.6 kilograms, and another that didn’t, which lost 5.9 kilograms. But now fitness tracker developers are creating tech that tracks so much more than weight loss, and their growing popularity suggests that they are at least helping us become more aware of how we treat our bodies.

In fact, in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2017, ‘wearable tech’ was named this year’s number one trend, ahead of HIIT training (favourite among personal trainers and made popular by the likes of nutrition coach Joe Wickes), strength training and yoga.

Indeed, the value of the wearable tech market has doubled in the past two years, from more than $2 billion in 2015, to a predicted $4 billion plus this year. Boil that down to everyday users, and that means that one in six of us currently owns and uses some form of wearable tech. So, what does 2017 have to offer in terms of latest kit?

NEW SMART WATCHES TO WATCH…

Among wearable tech owners, fitness ‘bands’ are the most popular devices (61%) according to a study conducted by global data company Nielsen, followed by smart watches (45%) and mHealth (mobile health) devices (17%). Here’s some of the things you can expect to hit the shops this year…Android Wear 2.0 Update

Not quite a smart watch per se, but the Android Wear 2.0 update forms the next chapter in Google’s smartwatch operating system endeavours, after a delay in development meant the proposed September 2016 date came and went. You can adjust the interactive ‘complications’ and tailor them to your needs; you can even track how much water you’ve had throughout the day. It’s also very easy to launch music from the home screen, even without your phone being turned on. The main perk is that 2.0 allows you to download apps straight to your watch, without pairing to the phone. It’s expected to launch with a couple of new smartwatches in early February.Polar A360 Fitness Band

Polar developed the first wireless, wrist-based heart rate monitor in 1982. It has since been predominantly known for this leading product, along with running watches and training programmes, but less so for mainstream fitness trackers. Until now. The Polar A360 is the first to have both a wrist-based heart monitor and personal training guidance built in, and it also boasts an RGB touch screen and is water resistant to 30 metres, which means that, yes, you can take it swimming. Lee Crane, of Digital Trends Review site, describes the features list of the A360 as “like an answer to many people’s complaints about Fitbit products” and reinforces just how much Polar has done its homework.Moov Now

Another brand that has reinvented itself is the second generation Moov. The affordable (£64) Moov Now successor is distinguished from other fitness trackers with its disc-shaped, nine-axis Omni Motion sensor technology, which is a more exact way of saying it’s able to capture and analyse your motion in 3D. It claims to be the ‘most advanced’ heart rate wearable yet, and has been tested against professional sports testing facilities and rivals medical ECG equipment. It’s great for high intensity workouts, which increase your metabolic rate over time, and voice coaches you through exercises move-by-move.

FUTURISTIC NEW PRODUCTS…

While many of us are wedded to our bands and watches, keep an eye out for some of these more ‘out-there’ products…Bluetooth shoes that vibrate

Asking your shoes for navigation tips may sound futuristic and cartoonish, but in this remarkable age of wearable tech innovations, it’s now entirely possible. Dutch sportswear brand Hi-Tec has created the Navigator boots with Bluetooth-enabled capabilities that send vibrations to your feet and let you know when and which way to turn during a walk or run. The boots connect to an app on your phone or Google maps. A left foot buzzing means take a left, right foot – turn right. Originally conceived to help people with visual impairments get around, the tech wizardry giant Lechal, realised a much wider market could be reached. You tap in your destination, then follow the intuition of the vibrating pads in the insoles. It’s a no brainer for those that love walking but dislike route-planning or map reading.Recon Jet Smart Sports and Fitness Eyewear

Intelligent eyewear that feeds you live training stats as it’s happening? Yes please! Recon Jet is described as a powerful, wearable computer that connects with your smart phone operating system and relays data in the bottom right hand corner of the user’s eyes. It also comes with a point of view photo and video camera, dual microphones and an integrated speaker. Brilliant for those training for triathlons, or competitive sportives. There are several options for lens/ frame colour too.

SMART JEWELLERY THAT DOUBLES AS WEARABALE TECH…

This is a trend that’s been on the rise for some time now. According to the study conducted by Nielsen, 62% of people said that they wish wearables came in forms other than wrist bands and watches, and 53% want wearable devices that look more like jewellery.The Fitbit Flex 2 is designed to answer that longing. Fitbit’s slimmest band yet has a removable tracker which fits in its range of bangles, bands and pendants, which are remarkably elegant. Its essential features may seem standard in the world of wearables, but include auto sleep tracking, LED display, up to five-day battery life, swim-proof casing and an all-day activity tracker that breaks your activity down into miles, steps, calories and an exercise summary in the Fitbit app. The Luxe collection is particularly smart: with 22-karat gold, silver and rose gold bands and pendants with a sleek, hand-polished, mirror finish. You could add your tracker to one of their pendants and not feel like a fool attending a formal dinner.

Meanwhile Bellabeat is unashamedly marketing its products at the ladies, with a focus on wellbeing as well as some of the more standard tracker tech. It’s the world’s first wearable that predicts stress and fertility cycles and its elegant motion sensor is shaped like a leaf. The Leaf Urban – following the enormous success of its sister, the Leaf Nature – is Bellabeat’s new offering, which launched last summer and sold out in less than a day. Both models come with all the expected fitness-tracking mod cons (step tracker, calories burned, daily activity). It also guides you through meditation exercises and has a sophisticated sleep tracker that breaks your night up into portions of light and deep sleep. The stress tracker suggests areas in your life to which you might want to pay more attention. But it’s the menstrual cycle and fertility tracking that really takes Bellabeat’s functionality into the next league of women’s fitness tech wearables.

The cost of wearable tech is likely to be a limiting factor for many people —72% of users told Nielsen that they wish wearables were less expensive. But, whatever way you decide to improve your fitness (with wearable tech or not) it’s worth doing your research and making sure you choose something that suits your lifestyle and budget – that way you’ll be more likely to keep up those good habits.

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