Fitness bands will decline in popularity as smart clothes take off

Fitness bands aren’t going to be king of the wearables hill forever – and in fact, are now peaking and set to go into decline, at least according to Gartner. Smartwatches and smart clothes are where it’s really at for the future, the analyst firm reckons.

It’s no secret that fitness bands are expected to dominate the tech world this Christmas – in fact, back in July Currys was already predicting the Samsung Gear Fit would top the Xmas tech bill, with fitness bands holding the top three spots when it comes to Christmas sales.

But Gartner believes the popularity of fitness bands will decline over the next year, and smart clothing will become more desired pieces of wearable technology, along with smartwatches.

Smart shirts, like the Polo Tech from Ralph Lauren, have embedded sensors which can gauge heart rate and respiration, transferring that data to your smartphone via Bluetooth. Because a shirt can hold a greater number of sensors closer to the user’s skin, it can collect a larger range of data, and be more accurate and in-depth. Angela McIntyre, Gartner research director, told the Guardian that a smart shirt could do things like measure “the full wave of the heart beat rather than just the pulse”.

She continued: “First generation smart shirts have been available from companies like Adidas and Underarmour for a while now marketing them to professional athletes, but we’re starting to see interest from regular manufacturers of garments for a much larger audience.”

In other words, this specialist arena will soon hit the shops and the consumer, and 10 million smart garments are expected to go on sale throughout the course of next year. In 2016, that is predicted to increase to 26 million, compared to a forecast of 19 million for fitness wristbands in the same year.

Smartwatches are also expected to pick up swiftly next year – the Apple Watch will doubtless help drive sales, too – and these have fitness features on board, so they will cannibalise fitness band sales. Smartwatches will sell 40 million next year, Gartner believes, and 60 million in 2016.

Other smart clothing is also likely to make an impact in the near future – we’re already hearing about interesting tech such as Lechal smart shoes, which can deliver haptic feedback to help navigate you on foot to a destination location.