New gadgets — so-called wearables — are mapping our every waking move, helping us to track everything from calories to steps, heartbeats to hours in the sun. According to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), 90 million wearables were sold worldwide last year, including fitness trackers and smartwatches, and the number is expected to reach 200 million this year. Figures released by the Wearable Technology Show estimate the market to be worth $173 billion worldwide. ‘Wearables will become more ubiquitous than computers in the near future,’ says IEEE senior member Dr Kevin Curran.
You’ve probably seen or even tried multi-function wearables — wristbands and similar devices such as the FitBit Flex, JawBone, Nike Fuelband, Garmin Vivofit and Samsung Gear Fit: wristbands that monitor movement, heart rate and skin temperature to track your activity and sleep. But wearables don’t — and increasingly won’t — stop there.
‘The latest trend is towards single-function devices such as activity-specific clothing, like Hexoskin which monitors workouts, or indeed wearable medical devices such as Vital Connect, which is a patch that tracks your vital signs and lets doctors access the data,’ says Dr Curran. (Pet monitoring is a growing trend, too.)
We’ve gathered seven of the best wearable options.
Swimmers will appreciate the Misfit Shine. It’s a basic tracker band — although it can be worn as a necklace or clip — that measures energy output and hours of sleep. But where it comes into its own is that it’s waterproof to a safe depth of 50 metres, so it can be used for scuba dives as well as triathlons.
The Netatmo June — a little faceted doodah, pictured above, on a leather or silicone bracelet — tracks the intensity of UV rays in real time and tots up your skin’s sun exposure throughout the day. It’s synced to an app, and the user can get advice depending on skin type, including suggested maximum daily exposure. It will even recommend when to apply sun cream, though you’ll still need to find a human to do your back.
Zepp Multi-sport sensor
Argos and Currys
Golfers and racket sports fans will appreciate the Zepp multi-sport sensor, which analyses a user’s swing when playing golf and tennis via a small, fluorescent yellow cube-shaped device and an accompanying app. The cube gathers information and sends it to the app to be turned into practical advice.
The Mio Fuse is a heart-rate monitor and activity tracker that can be worn on the wrist, with no need for a chest strap. It measures blood flow plus temperature to analyse movements and provide an accurate reading. It also measures daily activity and can adjust to high-energy walks, workouts or runs. It’s water-resistant to 30 metres, so you can run through the rain without worrying.
A sense of style is not something you can easily track, but for anyone who wants to avoid tacky plastic, look no further than Withings Activité — a Swiss-made tracker that combines old-school flair with all the usual body tracking, a battery that lasts for eight months, and French calf-leather straps. It’s what Bond would wear if he worried about how many steps he took.
iWinks Aurora Dreamband
The Aurora Dreamband offers the tantalising prospect of helping you become aware that you’re dreaming — a state known as lucid dreaming. It’s a padded headband stuffed with sensors, and the inventors hope that by monitoring brainwaves and eye movements, they can analyse when you’re dreaming and then, via a subtle alert, help you become conscious of the dream without waking up. This crowdfunded device is still in development, with the first units due to ship next month.
For some of us, just standing up during a day at the office is a triumph. Sound familiar? Then invest in the Apple Watch, which among many other features contains an accelerometer to measure your total body movement and steps, to calculate the calories you burn during the activities you do throughout the day. It measures all kinds of physical movement, from simply standing up to running to catch the bus or playing with your children.