The Apple iWatch, the Google Gem, the GearFit … soon it may seem like every person you know has a piece of technology on their wrist. New research from Parks Associates confirms this, showing that smart watch sales will reach an all time high in 2014, with 18 million units sold worldwide. Projections estimate that by 2018, global sales will hit 347 million units.
Smart watches are watches that also allow users to track their fitness levels, read messages, check email, and do many other things without having to pull a smart phone from their pockets. Most importantly in the health world, smart watches allow people to track their fitness levels, and use that data to understand their health.
When you use your smart watch as a fitness tracker, it measures heart rate, logs meals, and tracks sleep quality, much like other fitness tracking apps or programs. However, smart watches provide two main advantages over other fitness trackers. First, they automate the collection and transmission of your fitness data, which is much easier and more accurate than manually logging data. This leads to more consistent data logging. Second, all leading smart watches are designed for use with a related smartphone app, and that app builds in fun features, such as social media, that keeps users engaged with their fitness regimens.
Smart watches go beyond the fitness space, though. They allow you to connect to the Internet, use mobile apps, message through texts and much more. These features distinguish them from traditional Fitbits, which are used only as fitness and activity trackers. Smart watches are also designed to engage users in many of the same functions they would use a smartphone for, with the luxury of having a hands-free device.
Most smart watches serve as companion devices to a smart phone, for ease with data syncing, which means that they can serve as a data gateway to share fitness information with health coaches, fitness trainers, and physicians. Eventually, smart watches may contribute valuable patient information to electronic medical records (EMRs), or to other wearable devices like Google Glass.
The smart watch also represents a growing need for crossover devices in healthcare, incorporating multiple user needs into one easy and reliable device. “As a dominant wearable category, the smart watch has the potential to integrate many unique functions to simplify consumers’ lives – health and fitness tracking is one of them, so are smart home and mobile payment functions,” says Harry Wang, director of mobile and health research at Parks Associates. “These use cases will turn consumer skepticism into enthusiasm and power this new device category into the mainstream.”
Soniya Shah is an on-staff contributing writer at MedTech Boston. She's a senior at Carnegie Mellon University pursuing a BS in technical writing. She has experience as a ghost writer and medical writer, and in developing software documentation.
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