The buzz around wearable tech isn't waning—if anything it's ramping up.
The future of fitness is going to be data driven from activity trackers like the Fitbit to the soon-to-be released T-shirts that can alert you when you've reached your target heart rate.
At the 2014 Wearable Tech Conference in San Francisco, more than 500 attendees and 40 exhibitors came together to test out new products and discuss the future implications of wearable technology. Adidas' vice president of digital sports, Paul Gaudio, spoke at the conference on the particular positive implications for the fitness industry.
"You go to the gym, you do it for a little while and then you fall off and you stop going," says Gaudio. "Well, a lot of times this is because you don't know what you're doing. You're not getting accurate feedback, you're not doing the right things, and so then you don't see results. It's not a matter of what seeing these metrics will do for your workout, it's really about what you do as a result of those insights."
So where to start? There are a lot of products popping up on the market, and many of them are effective. Based on price, uniqueness, usefulness and buzz, here's one product from each major category of wearable fitness tech to highlight.
Wrist Activity Trackers
Garmin Vivosmart ($169.99)
The wrist activity tracker is the wearable tech category of the moment, and as such there are a lot of options out there. Like the Vivosmart, most all of them track daily steps, calories burned, heart rate (provided you wear a monitor), sleep accumulation and sleep quality. The Garmin Vivosmart (the counterpart to the Garmin Vivofit), has a sleek, no-button design, is water-resistant to 50 meters, and even has a "move" alert to discourage sitting for too long. The daily activity total can also be adjusted based on your personal fitness goals. What sets the Garmin Vivosmart apart is its smart watch capabilities. You get a gentle vibration and digital display when you receive a text or email, and your workout data automatically syncs via Bluetooth to Garmin Connect, making tracking your daily training a snap.
Lumo Lift ($99 MSRP)
Bad posture is the root cause of so many injuries and problems, from low-back pain and hip discomfort to carpal tunnel syndrome and low confidence. And we're all guilty of it from time to time.
The Lumo Lift, a tiny sleek pin you can fasten to your shirt, is a posture coach and activity tracker in one. Anytime you slouch forward (while standing, walking or just sitting), you feel a gentle vibration from the Lumo Lift reminding you to sit up straight. Seems simple enough, right? Over time, you will slouch less, feel (and look) better and that positive reinforcement can spread into all areas of your life from work presentations to workouts. The activity tracker aspect of the Lumo Lift is adequate and syncs wirelessly with most mobile devices, although the tracking capabilities are not as expansive as those you'll get from Garmin or Fitbit. But if there is one tiny device that you can wear that will have a huge payoff for your health—the Lumo Lift is it.
MioGlobal Mio Alpha ($199 MSRP)
In the world of wearable tech, clunky heart rate straps are quickly becoming a thing of the past. At the forefront of this wireless, continuous heart-rate detection movement is San Francisco-based MioGlobal. There are a few fancier watches out there with GPS, but they'll also cost you. If you're looking to train with heart rate and upload your data easily, then the MioGlobal Mio Alpha is the watch for you.
You can customize your workout by inputting three user-settable heart rate zones, and the Mio Alpha is Bluetooth Smart (4.0) and ANT+ compatible, and connects wirelessly to most fitness apps including Strava, Wahoo, MapMyRide and their own MioGo. If you have a smaller wrist try the Mio Alpha in Indigo, which is slightly smaller in design.
4iiii Innovations Sportiiii ($149.99 MSRP)
Have you ever been riding along, glance down at your Garmin to check out your pace or heart rate, and just barely missed a car pulling out? What if you could access all of your workout analytics without ever having to even glance at your watch or your bike computer? With the Sportiiii sunglasses mount, your entire workout is literally right in front (or, technically, down and to the side) of your eyes. Using your own pre-determined heart-rate zones, different color-coded lights appear in the lower part of your vision to let you know if you're working too hard, not enough, or just right.
To get a real-time audio alert about your effort, simply tap the side of the sunglass mount. If you purchase the 4iiii heart rate, power and cadence sensors (all purchased separately), you can have access to all of your analytics right in front of you at all times.
Sensilk Sports Bra and Men's Shirt (Coming early 2015)
One of the newest areas of the wearable tech world is that of "smart fabrics." Going far beyond reflective safety capabilities, semiconductor technology has made it possible to put on a T-shirt that can read your heart rate as well as a strap.
There are a couple companies out there doing some amazing things with smart fabric. One worth noting is Sensilk, which is being championed by The North Face founder, Hap Klopp. While many of the other companies rely on a separate sensor that is slipped into the clothing during your workout, Sensilk's sensor is woven in directly where a heart rate monitor would go, ensuring the most accurate readings possible. The fabric, which is designed as both a women's sports bra and a men's exercise shirt, is able to detect heart rate, respiratory rate, distance travelled and calories burned in real time, which can be accessed with their own Sensilk app. Sensilk's Indiegogo funding round starts in January, and expect it to launch in early 2015.
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