Although Wearable Tech’s uses often lie outside of sport, the initial wave of products have been mainly based around it.
Fitbit - which in the first part of 2014 accounted for nearly half of global band shipments - has been joined by Garmin, Jawbone and Xiaomi as the industry’s dominant brands. Yet there’s real concern about whether the success of fitness trackers could be short lived.
After the industry’s initial success at the tail-end of 2013 and throughout 2014, big things were expected, especially in terms of units sold. Fast-forward less than a year and projections are less optimistic. Research specialists, Gartner, predict that fitness tracker sales will fall from 70 million to 68 million this year. This isn’t a huge drop, but demonstrates that any momentum the space had, has since fallen by the wayside.
It would, however, be shortsighted to simply pass fitness trackers off as a fad. As companies try and promote a healthier workplace - productivity and health are commonly seen as related concepts - fitness trackers could play an important role.
As discussed by Thomsons Online Benefits, wearable tech could help HR professionals collect data, which when collated, could provide insights into how a wellness programme is affecting staff members.
Wearable tech’s main problem has been keeping its users interested for longer than a couple of months. The Guardian carried an article which stated that a number of devices - the one in question was a Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch which at the time retailed at £299 - were being sold on for a fraction of the price.
Rob Gray, Writer, HR Magazine, sees this inability to keep users responsive as an issue, even if they’re given out for free as part of a wellness program.
He states; ‘around a third of employees at an organization will have no interest in wearables. A further third will be “pretty engaged” for three or four months, and a final third will be “mad keen” – loving the stats generated and comparing them with colleagues.’
Yet this doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the road for fitness trackers in the corporate environment. A ‘halo-effect’ - where those who get fully onboard with fitness trackers start to influence those who aren’t - can, over time, be influential. Whether it’s choosing something healthier to eat for lunch or cycling to work, you don’t have to wear a fitness band to reap the benefits of them.
Maybe wearable tech won’t be as influential as we all thought it would be last year. It’s certainly more difficult to spot a person wearing a band these days. We shouldn’t, however, dismiss them as a fad, as they could play an important role in company wellbeing strategies.