What’s New In Health Wearables

Danielle Beurteaux

In late July, the FDA released a guidance document detailing the agency’s recommendations on “low-risk” wellness products and devices such as wearable devices and health apps. While the agency has no plans to regulate this industry, the document attempts to provide clarity and suggestions on the use of products designed to promote a healthy lifestyle. Examples of products in this segment include activity trackers, weight, stress, and sleep management tools — think prevention, tracking, and measurement.

The overall market for wearables is predicted to grow by over 18 percent this year, driven predominantly by smartwatches, according to Gartner. That’s despite the fact that global smartwatch shipments declined by 32 percent year-over-year for the first time in the second quarter of this year, according to IDC. The research firm pins this drop largely on Apple, a driver of smartwatch sales, because consumers are supposedly waiting for the next generation of devices. Apple’s market share of the segment was 72 percent in 2015, and that fell by 55 percent this year.

But that hasn’t stopped a new round of health wearables from hitting the market. One report claims that health wearables will hit 97.6 million units shipped by 2021, with $17.8 billion in revenue, driven by fitness devices and smartwatches.

Here are some new devices on the market.

For multiple sports

Garmin’s new vivoactive HR is a 24/7 kind of wearable. It’s a GPS smartwatch and heart-rate tracker that goes beyond step counting—from golfing to swimming, paddling, and more, it’s got you covered. And it doesn’t need to be tethered to a smartphone.

For stressed-out women

After releasing the Leaf, its first health wearable for women last year, BellaBeat has just come out with the next generation. The Leaf Urban measures factors such as activity, sleep, and menstrual cycles to predict parameters that increase stress levels, which it helps alleviate with meditation exercises.

For people who don’t want to wear a watch

Some industry watchers predict that hearables—which are basically souped-up earbuds—will be the next big thing. Later this month Samsung will release the Gear Icon X, a set of wireless, Bluetooth-enabled earbuds that track activity, measure your heart rate, and store and play music.

For chronic health conditions

With a focus on accuracy, Philips recently launched a line of health wearables that are FDA listed. That’s one way to get a market edge. The Philips Health Watch, for example, uses biometric data and is positioned as medical-grade device for people with chronic health conditions.

For aspiring parents

Described as a Fitbit for fertility,the Ava bracelet is designed to track a woman’s fertility. Approved by the FDA as a medical device, the device is worn overnight, collecting information such as heart rate, temperature, and sleep quality. It then sends the data to a smartphone app, which analyzes it and provides a conception probability rating for the day. The company claims a 89 percent accuracy rate.

For more on the health and wearables, see Can Wearable Technology Improve Your Health?

Danielle Beurteaux

About Danielle Beurteaux

Danielle Beurteaux is a New York–based writer who covers business, technology, and philanthropy. Her work has appeared in The New York Times and on Popular Mechanics, CNN, and Institutional Investor's Alpha, among other outlets.