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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.

While the value of smart clothing for average consumers is not yet apparent, it's a trend that could have staying power, according to NPD Group's Henderek. "In professional sports, the ability to track the amount of effort athletes are putting in could help coaches redistribute workloads and help avoid injuries," he explains. "There's a real need for that data."

Some well-known brands already offer "smart clothing" for consumers. Ralph Lauren's PoloTech shirt ($300), for example, measures heart rate data, breathing depth, balance and other biometrics, and streams the information from a "Bluetooth-enabled black box" to an iPhone or Apple Watch app, according to the company.

9) A focus on sleep in 2016 

Most of today's high-end activity trackers monitor sleep in some fashion, often automatically. However, the data the devices gather and feed back to their accompanying apps or websites is fairly basic, and it mostly tells only much time users slept, how often they were awake, and the levels of deep sleep versus light rest.

As wearable devices gain more sensors and processing power, they'll start to provide more detailed information on sleep patterns, according to Henderek. Metrics on REM sleep coupled with heart rate date during sleep will help connect the dots for users so they can see patterns over time, he says.

A wider variety of technology designed to not only track sleep but also improve it will hit the market. The "first-of-its-kind" Nuyu Sleep System ($500), for instance, adjusts the user's body temperature and warms him up as he goes to bed to help relax, then cools him off to increase the quality of sleep, according to the company.

10) Niche wearables will become commonplace

More wearable devices with sensors designed for specific purposes will be released in 2016. One such device, the Neatamo June bracelet ($129) for women, which measures sun exposure and offers advice on sunscreen application to prevent UV damage via a mobile app, is already available. "This is truly a device that could lower melanoma incidences globally," says Roozbeh Jafari, an IEEE Member and associate professor at Texas A&M University. "Plus, it looks fashionable, which is half the battle to market."

11) Activity trackers will remind more people to stand up

If an Apple Watch owner sits down for 50 minutes straight while wearing the device, the Watch vibrates to remind them to stand up and move around. (The stand reminders can be deactivated or silenced.) Some dedicated activity trackers already have similar features, including Garmin's vivosmart HR ($150), and more of 2016's wearable tech and activity trackers will feature stand reminders as well, Henderek says.


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