In 2013, technologies promoting fitness and health found their footing among a mass consumer audience like never before. The quantified-self movement, in conjunction with good-old-fashioned self-improvement, merged to create a market of people hungry for data that could help them make actionable changes in their activity levels, diet, and overall health and wellness.
Dozens of activity trackers and hundreds of apps and websites promoting a better you took off, made money (to put it bluntly), and are now in a position to experiment with people's comfort zones. And where better to see how these companies will push the envelope than at CES, which kicks off in Las Vegas next week?
The upcoming CES will expand its digital fitness show floor space by 30 per cent compared to the year before, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. Here's a sneak peek at some of the innovations I expect to see.
Tracking taken further
In 2014, quantified-selfers will have more data to track than ever before. We'll see a serious uptick in the kinds of measurements different devices collect.
The most rudimentary fitness trackers work like smart pedometers, collecting information about how many steps you take, and how those steps tally up to miles. Already, several trackers capture more advanced measurements than distance alone: The number of stairs climbed, sleep, intense movement, heart rate, perspiration, and skin temperature.
Moving forward, however, more sensors will incorporate heart rate monitoring without a chest strap, following in the footsteps of the MIO Alpha BLE, Basis B1 Band, and Withings Pulse (pictured below), which all contain a heart rate sensor that does not have to sit on your sternum.
And new metrics, such as muscle quality and the amount of oxygen in the blood stream, will start to be implemented in everyday consumer electronics.
Power of the network
Networks will play an even more important role in the fitness technology revolution, too. In the home, we could start to see wellness trackers take on all-new roles, monitoring wellness behaviours rather than just activity. Has your child brushed her teeth? Did you drink eight glasses of water today? Trackers will start to be used in new ways, and when they're connected by a network, we'll rely less and less on self-reported data and more on information actually captured by these devices.
The majority of wearable devices for fitness come in two forms: Clip-ons and wristbands. However, you should get ready for wearable fitness devices to take many other forms this year – and be prepared for "wearables" to become part of the consumer lexicon.
Bracelets and watches are all well and good, but advances in technology are making it possible for "smart" bras, socks, and other clothing to finally reach the masses. It won't just be specialty products for niche sports markets (like the Reebok Checklight impact-detecting skull cap), although they may still steer towards sports and fitness enthusiasts for another year or two.