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