Health and fitness wearables spending grows, but standards and privacy worries remain

Currently valued at $320m, the health and fitness wearables market is set to grow nearly six times in four years.

Two of the biggest able sectors, fitness and healthcare, will grow by 600 percent to $2bn in 2019, according to Juniper Research.

Wearables threaten to disrupt a wide range of markets and a variety of companies are trying to get a foothold in what should be a lucrative area.

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The Juniper report, Smart Wireless Devices, argues that connected healthcare devices and the data they generate will offer substantial benefits to both doctors and users of wearable devices, but also warns that "deployments will initially be constrained by inconsistent regulation, alongside continued privacy concerns surrounding the sharing and security of personal data".

The research highlights what it calls the "quantified others" trend - the use of someone's data by a professional or concerned party (like a parent) to provide meaning and/or advice.

It points out that companies like GOQii, the fitness startup that has received funding from Google, Amazon, Dell, and Microsoft, among others; and Filip Technologies, the India-based web design company, are taking advantage of this trend to provide services beyond mere data provision.

One issue, however, is that while medical devices do use standards, currently fitness devices have no such benchmarks about how they record data. The report notes: "The development of standards would alleviate consumer and medical professionals' concerns, driving up adoption."

Smart wireless devices will permeate the enterprise, with smart glasses in particular having a large impact, the report said. But according to the report's author James Moar, because of the "omnipresence of sensors", the importance of the hardware will diminish at a much faster rate than other consumer electronics market segments.

"Outside of the consumer market, when you look at using these devices at work, the pros and cons are similar to smartphones," Moar told ZDNet. "There comes a point at which it becomes worthwhile for the company and worthwhile for an employee too."

The price at which a device becomes worthwhile for a company to use is around the $50 mark, according to Moar.

But in the long term, it is the software that will be the differentiator. "Companies are starting to understand that to get the most from their people, they need to give them the right tools and more and more that will be the software," he said.

Read more about wearables:

How apps and wearables upended Weight Watchers

Good Technology aims at wearables and Internet of Things devices

Huawei announces three wearables; a smartwatch and two combination activity bands

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