Wearable Technology 101: What You Need to Know

Wearable technology is taking the U.S. by storm and it's no wonder that folks are perplexed about the buzz words for fitness gadgets.  While you may know on a gut level that fitness gadgets are a good thing, getting through the clutter of new gadgets on the market can be overwhelming.  Every few months a new fitness gadget in unveiled, so it's important to understand the lingo so if you decide to get in the game, you'll have a clue on what you're buying.  The more you understand, the better informed you'll be to distinguish between products and make an informed decision. 

Wearable Technology. This is the new, catchy phrase that represents it all. Fitness trackers, wristbands, smart jewelry, smart fashion, smart glasses, and hearables to name a few. Whenever you hear about the latest gadget that tracks your steps, calories, heart rate, or exercise form you're in the wearable technology arena.  Remember, this term wearable technology is an industry itself.  Out of this group are born variations of fitness tools designed for the novice, intermediate, expert athlete.  The term itself can sound complex especially if you don't consider yourself a techie (yours truly).  Here's a tip: When you hear news about the latest and greatest gadget to hit the market the first thing you need to ask yourself is 1) Does this gadget sound like something good for me? and 2) Does it address the niche that interest me? For example, if you like to swim, you'll need a gadget that's waterproof.   Obvious, yes, but that will help narrow your choices dramatically.  If you're a runner, it's a matter of style, features, and price.  It's crucial to ask yourself the above questions otherwise you'll have a lot of gadgets collecting dust and you won't benefit at all.  Now to the next definition - fitness trackers.

 

Fitness Trackers

 photo: fitbit.com

photo: fitbit.com

Fitness trackers are often used interchangeably with fitness gadgets.  They are by far the most popular fitness gadgets today.  Fitness trackers come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  They can be as simple as the handy and cheap pedometer to the sleek UP2 Band.  You have a lot of options with the fitness trackers and they come with a variety of features that can meet your needs.  Some folks love the large bands that give them data during their run while others want a cute reminder to walk more.  The nice thing about these gadgets is that the price point is relatively easy on the budget.  You can get a quality fitness tracker that will tell you basic information that can improve you life instantly.  For example, monitoring your sleep can impact your productivity, reduce crankiness, help with weight loss, and improve your mood.  You really can't beat the positive results you get from a reasonably priced fitness tracker.  If you really want to up the ante on your data or just love the latest gadget a smartwatch may be the answer.  

Smartwatches

 Photo: Apple.com

Photo: Apple.com

Hello Apple Watch. Competitors include the Samsung Gear S, Moto 360, and Sony Smartwatch 3 to name a few. These watches are not your average watch since they're relatively pricey. They're pricey because they do everything! However, if you want to a  smart watch you'll need to question whether this investment is the right one for you.  Remember, you can get a decent watch for under $100 and smart watches will set you back $350 or more! Of course if you decide to take the financial plunge, you can benefit from thousands (yes, thousands) of apps.  These apps can help you set, monitor and achieve your fitness goals.  You can do a bunch of other things too like call your friend, pay for your groceries, and check your email - all on your wrist.  It's basically another inbox on your wrist.  If that works for you, great otherwise the sheer amount of information can be a double whammy.  Again, you have to ask yourself if this is the only gadget that can give you the results you want.  This is a personal decision and only you can answer.  If you want something completely different, hearables are another option.  

Hearables

 photo: Jabra.com

photo: Jabra.com

Even though you see someone with earbuds don't assume music is the only output.  Companies are designing wearable technology that monitors your heart rate via your ears.  According to Dr. Steven LeBoeuf, president of Valencell, accurate data is where fitness trackers don't measure up.  His concern is that most fitness trackers don't track data consistently and the wrist itself is subpar when it comes to sensory information. According to Dr. LeBoeuf, the ear is the best place to collect accurate data.  If you prefer earbuds over other accessories on your arm or wrist a hearable might be worth a try.  The challenge in this area will be to accommodate different ear sizes and provide a comfortable fit for users.  As this division of wearable technology expands there will be more development in the not so obvious wearables.  

Whether you're avoiding fitness wearables or want one it's important to get up to speed on the terminology.  At the end of the day, you want a gadget that will meet your fitness needs and give you useful information to enhance your life.  How you get that information is completely up to you and what best suits your lifestyle. 

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