I’ve tested more than a dozen different fitness-tracking devices over the past couple of years, logging about 7 million steps in the process. And to what end? I have no idea.
Seriously, I don’t. I think the unrelenting barrage of steps, beats and z’s is to blame for my sagging interest in fitness wearables. I don’t want this tidal wave of data. What I want is a device that monitors the stream of data and lets me know how healthy I am. And what I can do to be healthier.
My diagnosis: wearable fatigue.
That’s difficult for me to say. You see, as an industry analyst, it’s my job to keep up with technology. More than that, I love keeping up. I’m an incurable gadget freak. My pulse quickens when I hear the squealing brakes of a Fedex truck as it pulls up to the curb. Because I know it won’t be long before I’m tearing past the shrink wrap to start evaluating another new piece of hardware.
I haven’t given up on wearables. I still wear a smartwatch. But it’s important to understand that I’m wearing it more for the watch part than the smart part. Which is the heart of the problem, if you’ll pardon the pun.
Unless you’re a professional athlete, coach or dyed-in-the-wool fitness enthusiast, I’ll bet you agree. Raise your hand if you got a shiny new fitness tracker for the holidays, and it’s already in the laundry room gathering dust alongside your Abdominizer and Shake Weight.
That’s what I thought.
Don’t feel guilty. It’s their fault, not ours.
The financial community has come to agree. Wearable fatigue hit investors hard at the start of the year. They pounded Fitbit stock (fit) just as the company unveiled its new fitness watch, the Fitbit Blaze, in Las Vegas at CES, the massive consumer electronics showcase. The stock plummeted 59.2% from $29.76 the day before the announcement to a low of $12.15 in late February. It has yet to recover.
Pebble, another trailblazer in wearables, was forced to lay off 25% of its workforce in late March, after efforts to raise more capital fell short.
This isn’t a sign that wearables are starting to fade away. To the contrary. They’re going to get better. They’ll start to deliver the kind of smarts that the majority of consumers want. And that will spark another round of growth. Call it smart smart-wear.
Indeed, I see the current pause in market demand as a blessing in disguise, because it will motivate suppliers to hasten the transition to smart devices that actually are smart. Already, I’m starting to see signs of intelligent life emerge from the tsunami of data. A great example is the Trio Motion, a tracking device from Unitedhealthcare, which I wrote about a few weeks ago. The Trio Motion is the centerpiece of the insurance giant’s bold new initiative to pay members to act healthier. Unitedhealthcare pays up to $4 a day, or as much as $1,460 per person per year, for meeting three daily activity goals.
Even though I’m not wearing the Trio Motion now (I’ve loaned it out and haven’t gotten it back - hint!), it’s still impacting my behavior because I now understand what sort of activity executives at an insurance provider believe will keep me healthier – and save them money.
Mio Global also gets it. At CES, the Vancouver-based fitness watch supplier introduced a scoring system called Personal Activity Intelligence, or PAI. Paired with Mio Global’s wearables, PAI gives users a quick gauge for what their activity levels are doing for their heart health – and what they can do to improve it.
I’ve seen a few other developments under lock and key that give me hope that this coming holiday season might finally be the one where we’ll have some smart smart-wear to choose from. Hopefully, the smarts will be compelling enough to cure us of our wearables fatigue.
And with any luck, you’ll still be wearing yours this time next year.
Mike Feibus is principal analyst at FeibusTech, a Scottsdale, Ariz., market strategy and analysis firm focusing on mobile ecosystems and client technologies. Neither Feibus nor FeibusTech are investors of companies named in this article.