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Fitbit IPO shows wearable devices have a healthy pulse

Fred O'Connor | June 18, 2015
Wearable devices that track steps and monitor sleep may have been dismissed as fads, but Fitbit's upcoming initial public offering paints a different picture.

While McIntyre couldn't provide figures on how many Fitbit sales are made to businesses, she pointed out it has a program for companies interested in using the devices for wellness programs. Fitbit didn't respond to a request for comment.

Fitbit's main competitors are other fitness trackers vendors including Garmin and Jawbone, which recently filed two patent-infringement lawsuits against Fitbit, as well as Asian consumer electronics companies like HTC and Xiaomi, according to Llamas.

Xiaomi was the world's second largest wearable vendor in the first quarter of 2015 based on device shipments with Fitbit ranking first, according to IDC.

To fend off rivals, Fitbit needs to use the data its devices collect to deliver health notifications that are relevant to users, Llamas said.

"Fitbit has done a great job with individual data like calories burned, but what should it tell me to have a better life?" he said.

For example, a Fitbit could suggest going to bed early on a Monday if a user didn't get much sleep over the weekend, or it could predict the onset of an illness with the addition of a sensor to measure body temperature, Llamas said.

"These are the forward-thinking applications that Fitbit could grow into," he said, adding that Fitbit doesn't need to develop a smartwatch with functions that go beyond health and fitness tracking.

While developing services to provide users with wellness insights is key to keeping Fitbit competitive, smaller changes, like adding sensors and improving battery life, can also go far in making its products stand out, McIntyre said.

Entering partnerships with health care providers and insurers is another way for Fitbit to grow and protect its market share, she said.

 

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