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Getting Fit: What’s Popular in Wearable Tech for 2016?

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January 8, 2016
What's popular in wearable technology for 2016

Wearables continue to drive what’s new in technology. That was evident to those plugged in to the early January Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas—the annual desert gathering that can set the tone for tech stocks and retail trends.

In reality, wearable tech has been around for about 40 years (calculator watches debuted in 1975), but the field has taken off in the last three years, says Shawn DuBravac, chief economist and senior director of research at the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). His group was formerly the Consumer Electronics Association, which presents the Consumer Electronics Show.

Preliminary data from the CTA for 2015 shows that wearables are a $4.2 billion market in the U.S.—and that’s just the wholesale figure. DuBravac says market size will likely grow in 2016.

Health and Fitness Focused

The bulk of the wearables market concentrates on health and fitness, and that’s not likely to change, according to industry experts.

“Wearable fitness technology is going to move into uncharted territory,” predicts Jess Barron, editor-in-chief of Livestrong.com.

Barron highlights a few newer devices, including Lumo Lift and UpRight, which are posture trainers, and Spire and Leaf, which track breathing and stress levels.

There’s even health technology for your down time. Sleep tracker Beddit Smart slips under the sheets and records data about breathing, heart rate, and movement to help analyze your slumber.

Form and Function?

The idea of wearables as fashion came courtesy of Apple’s (AAPL*) Apple Watch, says Chad Taylor, a technology expert at retailer Abt Electronics. Other brands are entering the watch space with devices that look like traditional watches, he says, adding: “The new Samsung gear watches are absolutely amazing. Tag Heuer released their smart watch in November.”

Jorge Cruise, celebrity fitness trainer and author of Tiny and Full, recommends wearables for people who need a different approach to getting fit. Using a wearable in combination with a calorie tracker app is a great way to really focus on “fitness and health in a way not possible before,” he says.

His clients find tracking results in real time to be highly motivating. Focusing on food and fitness with these digital trackers “is like looking at your bank account. It tells you if you’ve overdrawn or have enough.”

Wearables are moving beyond health, too; games are also moving into the space. Taylor points to Gameband for people who play Minecraft.

“It stores your Minecraft game so you can walk to any computer, plug it in, and have the game where you last left it,” he says.

DuBravac said pet wearables are also growing in popularity. One example is FitBark, which tracks your pup’s activity. Owners can compare data to similar dogs and share the information with their vet.

Although many areas are showing growth, the wearables market is still focused on whatever can be measured, DuBravac said. Companies are trying to decide what is most meaningful for the user. For investors, it’s a potential growth area and an opportunity to identify which companies will lead the innovations and which will respond.

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