Fitness tracker

One step forward: the future of fitness trackers

Paula Munteanu

23 Aug 2017

I remember a couple of years ago when I got my first wearable: a black, clunky bracelet with a rather bizarre design I never managed to get my head around. As a sceptic back then for all tracking devices aimed at making users more health-conscious, I ordered it off a discounted goods website more as a joke than because of a genuine willingness to join the craze. It was a Jawbone fitness tracker, and despite my initial reservations I ended up loving it. Reading the news that the company began liquidation proceedings after its fitness-tracking product failed to take off was rather upsetting. At the end of the day, it was Jawbone that introduced me to the world of wearables I’m now so fond of. Every end is a new beginning. And in this case the company’s co-founder and chief executive Hosain Rahman has reportedly founded a new company to focus on a wider range of fitness-related software and hardware. It’ll be interesting to see how Rahman’s new brainchild – Jawbone Health Hub – grows. The questions is: does the wearables industry have a future-proof formula to apply to its products? So far analysts seem optimistic. Gartner predicted this week that wearable device sales will grow 17% globally in 2017. But what about longer-term?

Make-or-break factors

It is hard to believe this is the final destination for technology intertwined with fashion. Think conductive fabrics or sensor-clad smart garments. Or biometric garments that measure body vitals. Then comes personalisation. If we decide to wear an item 24/7, we’d likely expect it to become a personal thing. We’re likely to see more and more companies employ a personalised approach to wearable tech, making it part of our jewellery legacy.  To gain traction with consumers, wearables will have to be both a tech gadget and a fashion statement. Jawbone’s demise proved that in order to survive in an ever-changing and otherwise saturated market, wearable tech has to have a real use to customers, be user-friendly, intuitive, and never rely solely on its popularity. This also means the next generation of wearables will have to move away from measuring the approximate number of steps you walked per day to much more accurate data. Could we soon see advocacy groups evaluating devices and requiring brands to meet certain standards?

What happens now?

Access to hefty funding doesn’t always stop a business from failing. Jawbone’s fitness trackers never caught on with consumers to the extent the company had hoped they would, and coupled with a few product failures this led to lower-than-expected traction with consumers outside the US. But as long as the capabilities and quality of wearable devices continue to improve, we know the industry is moving forward. And this is important. More often than not, whilst a fad can quickly disappear, especially in the unpredictable consumer wearables market, people will always be interested in products that add value to their daily lives. Maybe fitness trackers are just a stepping stone for the wearables industry. Maybe they’re here to stay. Personally I hope it's the latter.