Watch this space

The race is on in the ac­tiv­ity tracker mar­ket, but the de­vice may not suit ev­ery­one, writes Rod Ch­ester

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - TECH -

GIVEN the na­ture of the beast, per­haps it’s only right that the ac­tiv­ity tracker mar­ket is mov­ing rapidly. Big play­ers are hit­ting hur­dles, new play­ers are join­ing the race and ex­ist­ing play­ers are tak­ing off in a new di­rec­tion.

The NPD Group es­ti­mates ac­tiv­ity trackers gen­er­ated $ 290 mil­lion in US re­tail sales last year. Tech an­a­lyst firm Canalys says more than 17 mil­lion wrist- worn trackers will ship this year.

Ac­cord­ing to Canalys, Fit­bit dom­i­nates the mar­ket with a 58 per cent mar­ket share, ahead of Jaw­bone with 21 per cent and Nike 14 per cent. Ap­ple could re­lease an iWatch this year. Canalys an­a­lyst Daniel Matte calls the wear­able band mar­ket the “con­sumeri­sa­tion of health”.

But Matte says the wrist- based ac­tiv­ity tracker mar­ket is fac­ing at­tacks on two fronts: smart­watches and smart­phones.

There is a third threat from ac­tiv­ity trackers not worn on the wrist, such as the soon- to- be re­leased Blaupunkt Biofeed­back Ear­phones that mea­sure heartrate and use tech­nol­ogy by Aus­tralian com­pany BioStrive to cal­cu­late key fit­ness in­di­ca­tors. Re­search shows one in 10 people own a fit­ness tracker but there are chal­lenges to ex­tend­ing that.

The ele­phant in the room is the ac­cu­racy of de­vices which typ­i­cally do not re­quire ap­proval, or as­sess­ment, by the US Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

A study by Ari­zona State Univer­sity re­searchers found the de­vices were gen­er­ally not good at de­tect­ing light ac­tiv­ity.

An­other prob­lem with ac­tiv­ity trackers is sim­i­lar to the is­sue faced by com­pa­nies who make ex­er­cise equip­ment. People’s in­ter­est, when it comes to fit­ness, wanes quickly.

Dig­i­tal busi­ness an­a­lysts En­deav­our Part­ners re­leased a re­port that shows more than half of con­sumers who bought an ac­tiv­ity tracker no longer use it. A third of people who have owned one put it aside within six months of pur­chase.

The strong point of ac­tiv­ity trackers is they can mo­ti­vate people to im­prove their fit­ness.

But a weak point is, in some ar­eas, they strug­gle to match other de­vices.

If you’re a run­ner, a GPS watch will do a bet­ter job of mon­i­tor­ing your pace and dis­tance.

For cy­clists, a free smart­phone app that ac­cu­rately tracks your dis­tance is likely to give you a bet­ter es­ti­mate of your calo­rie burn on a long ride.

Those fail­ings high­light an in­ter­est­ing is­sue. More ac­tive people could find an­other de­vice that bet­ter suits their needs.

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