BostonAnd May 16 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Smartwatches have skyrocketed in popularity in recent years, with motion and heart rate sensors tracking the activity of millions around the world. IDTechEx reveals. However, not all activities can be monitored using step counts – which limits the appeal of current wearable technology to many gym-goers and amateur athletes.
Monitor specific exercises
Running is one of the most common activities that are tracked by motion sensors in watches. They are used to track the distance and speed a runner runs, and some supplement them with heart rate data to show calories burned and level of effort.
While these systems are excellent at measuring the total movements of the watch wearer in two dimensions, they cannot yet accurately determine the movements in a third height.
Changes in watch height are necessary to monitor many exercises and movements. Consider sit-ups and push-ups or serve tennis and a golf swing. Furthermore, consider the gradient effect while running or climbing which is too subtle to be determined with GPS.
Third-party apps are available to process motion data – and with the right algorithms, this can be successful. In fact, Apple uses software to specifically allow users to enter data while kayaking and swimming.
However, many applications to increase the data of the wearable sensor are known to be deleted soon after downloading. Furthermore, many of Apple’s popular features still focus on 2D insights; Completed lengths in the pool or number of paddling strokes, for example.
This creates an opportunity for sensor technology capable of pinpointing the height of wearable devices to disrupt the industry. We are already seeing some companies seeking to take advantage of this market gap, as Bosch Sensortec has added a small pressure sensor to its range of microelectromechanical systems for wearable devices. Capable of detecting changes in height of up to 50cm, and small enough to fit into wrist and in-ear devices. Successful execution is marketed as allowing the number of reps, length of pull-ups, and overall form during strength training to be measured directly.
The smartwatch and fitness tracker industry is becoming more crowded, and as prices for the latest technology continue to rise, so too are consumer expectations. Differentiation in the wearable fitness space will be critical to success in the coming years, and device manufacturers must upgrade the capabilities of their sensors so that their users can do that as well.
Beyond the smartwatch
For many sports, wearing a watch while playing is not feasible, safe or permitted. Wearing a rigid device worn on the wrist is extremely dangerous and cannot be worn during contact sports such as soccer and rugby, and is also too important to be risked while playing hockey or squash.
As such, a large percentage of amateur and professional athletes remove their smartwatch just as they are about to exercise more often. For this market, understanding their performance during a match is arguably as important if not more important than tracking fitness during a training run.
Innovations in wearable sensor technology, especially electronic textiles, are a promising solution to this problem. Traditional textiles combined with electronics, or e-textiles, have been developed in various forms by many universities, startups, and large corporations alike. Conductive components embedded in the clothing have shown promising results for measuring heart rate and activity level, along with other biometrics of value in wellness and even healthcare.
So far, the main obstacle facing e-textiles has been washability, durability, and cost. Clothes safety often fails within a few cycles in the washer, which is unlikely to tempt many consumers to part with much money at all. This has led to some resentment of e-textiles, being written off as the enduring technology of the future.
However, the gap in the sports wearables market creates a unique opportunity. Match day jerseys are not worn as frequently as other clothing, and buyers are already accustomed to spending more on sports-specific equipment and local clubwear. Furthermore, professional soccer players are increasingly seen wearing sports bras that track their performance, making wearable technology of this type more socially acceptable.
Electronic textile technology is slowly improving, with some companies now able to make clothes that can withstand more than a hundred washes and cost a few hundred pounds. Although it is still far from being commercially viable for the mass market, it is replicating much closer to promising areas such as contact sports.
The most promising companies are creating key components for electronic fabric integration: wires, electrodes, and connectors; which can be easily integrated into existing wholesale clothing manufacturing methods. It is also common to see companies making fully realized shirts, headbands, bras and socks as marketing tools to generate interest and engage with more established players. As early stage companies focus their energies on expanding and collaborating with big-name brands, it wouldn’t be surprising to see high-end consumer smart shirts appearing in the market for the foreseeable future.
Those looking to compete in the wearable technology space will be remiss in overlooking users for whom the watch’s form factor will always be unsuitable. This could be through flexible electronics and electronic textiles, new locations on the body or even sensors built into sports equipment connected wirelessly.
Forecasts and market expectations
There is no denying that major players like Apple, Fitbit, Garmin and Samsung currently dominate the wearables market. However, while the industry appears poised for a split between consumer devices and medical devices – the opportunity remains for sensor innovations to create more market space for activity monitoring.
IDTechEx has covered wearable technology for nearly a decade, and our suite of customized reports provides a detailed overview of fitness tracking, smartwatches, leather patches, virtual and augmented reality devices, electronic textiles, hearing devices, and more. Our granular, ten-year forecast breaks down each industry by application and technology, and together they include hundreds of company profiles from interviews with major manufacturers and startups. Also included in the reports are multiple use case examples, SWOT analysis, and technology/business readiness assessments. More details and downloadable sample pages for each report can be found at IDTechEx site.
IDTechEx guides your strategic business decisions through research, subscription, and consulting products, helping you profit from emerging technologies. For more information, contact [email protected] or visit www.IDTechEx.com.
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