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13 wearable tech trends to watch in 2016

James A. Martin | Jan. 4, 2016
Will Fitbit continue to dominate the activity tracker market in 2016? Will consumers pay for insights based on data their activity trackers collect? Just how secure is that information? Wearable technology experts answer these questions and offer other predictions for the coming year.

Then there's Garmin, a company known mostly for its portable navigation devices and another potential Fitbit rival. Its "focus on citizen athletes with wearables for running, golf, swimming, hiking, and aquatics kept the company well entrenched," according to IDC. "With a deep and broad product portfolio and multiple price points, Garmin has been well-positioned to cover numerous market segments and address the rising fitness tracker category with its Vivo sub-brand of bands and watches."

Garmin is already a popular choice among athletes. In a November 2015 Piper Jaffray survey of 221 U.S. athletes, 91 percent said they wear a watch when running, and 70 percent of those people named Garmin as their brand of choice. Fitbit was the top pick among people who wore dedicated fitness bands, with 73 percent of the market, according to the survey.

5) Fitbit will add 'advanced sensors' to maintain a competitive edge

Fitbit CEO James Park recently revealed details on the company's future product line, in an interview with Time.

"We're definitely going to be releasing devices with advanced sensors that help people track not only more accurate metrics on what we're doing today, but additional metrics as well," Park said. "I can't talk specifically, but things people are going to be interested in in the future are blood pressure, or stress, or more stats about their athletic performance. Those are all things that we're working on and we'll continue to release over time."

Fitbit also "plans to strike partnerships with fashion brands as it has done with Tory Burch in the past," Park told Time. Third-party developers could also integrate their software into more advanced Fitbit devices in the future. "We're going to allow third parties in some ways to tap into the power of having an always-on device on someone's wrist," Park said.

A Fitbit representative says the company is "looking at all of the critical imperatives for health and wellness, such as activity level, sleep, nutrition — and the connection to chronic diseases (diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and more) that impact the global population to see how we can further help people."

6) Wearable apps will become more sophisticated — and expensive 

Apps from the companies that make activity trackers, as well as compatible third-party software that works with the devices, will become more advanced, and they'll integrate diet and different fitness categories, according to Weston Henderek, director of connected intelligence at The NPD Group. "Apps will take advantage of the sensors in activity trackers and give people a cloud-based repository of their info, along with more recommendations for how to improve their health."

However, with mounting pressure to keep activity-tracker prices competitive in 2016, it will be harder for the manufacturers to make profits, according to Henderek. One way to offset shrinking profit margins will be to charge monthly subscription fees for premium services and data, he says. Some companies already do. Fitbit's Premium Membership, for example, costs $50 a year, and gives subscribers personalized 12-week fitness plans and more detailed sleep reports, among other features.


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