For those in the medical and healthcare field, I wrote about trends for 2017.
The article got interest so we will do the same exercise for sports and fitness technology.
Sports & Fitness is a different field from medical. We see a lot of Kickstarter projects with colourful lights claiming medical benefits, without evidence. There are teams with good software but poor hardware (e.g. AndroidWear), and teams with good hardware but poor software (e.g. Garmin).
In 2016, I saw innovative and unexpected developments:
Drones promise to bring quickly and safely medication to villages and remote places. A company like Vayu has already deployed such drones in Madagascar. In addition to medication, the drone can bring back to a healthcare facility blood samples for testing.
Philips and other startups like Clarius are introducing wireless ultrasound transducers. These are transportable in a small bag and use your tablet or phone as screen. Ultrasounds are traditionally prohibitive in cost and too heavy for individual usage.
Virtual reality can help reverse complete paralysis. Others companies are using VR to distract children from needles or transfusions.
People can now control prosthetics through thoughts. I’ve also seen the first Cybathlon with very interesting devices. See video here with commentary
GPS sports watches and fitness trackers are now mainstream, with companies like Apple, Fitbit, Garmin and Samsung offering a variety of devices.
Did you know your iPhone knows exactly how many steps you take daily? And that it can list which locations you visit through the day? It also measures how many floors you climbed, your walking distance, and if you have installed health apps, it will also begin to collect heart rate data, blood pressure and even your health records.
The downside is that all of it is inside the Health app, which is as sexy and usable as a spreadsheet!
How does the Apple Watch compare to other devices as a health and fitness tracker?
I had and used the Apple Watch series 1 for six months before writing this review. I don’t have any relationship with Apple so I consider this as a fair review.
In summary, the Apple Watch opens up exciting opportunities for health tracking for most of us. It’s beautiful, integrates nicely with the Apple ecosystem, and can be augmented in powerful ways with third-party apps.
The Apple Watch is not by any means perfect. There are devices with more functionalities. But it might just be good enough if you are planning to track your overall health and activity.
Overweight, out of breath, sluggish? Get an activity tracker from Fitbit, Apple, or Garmin
An activity tracker is on your wrist and visible throughout the day. It reminds you everyday of your activity level and helps you reach basic fitness goals.
For those with office jobs, or who are working from home, it can be an eye opener on the lack of activity. A person working at home can in theory wake up, shower, have breakfast, work, have dinner and go back to sleep with less than 40meters walked. Compare to the usually recommended daily 10,000 steps!
You can compete against yourself and try to reach the daily 10,000 steps by walking to the office. You can also compare with friends. Most activity trackers have leaderboards and entice you to compete on who has the most weekly steps. It’s not unheard of to walk late in the night or on a Sunday just to be finish in the leaderboard.