At last month’s International Convention and Trade Show of the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) in Los Angeles, a colleague and I had the opportunity to chat with Polar President Tom Fowler. Our topic of conversation quickly turned to the future of wearable devices. Fowler is particularly interested in biometrics—or statistical analyses of exercisers’ physical and behavioral characteristics—and how such technologies will evolve over the next decade.
Would such a device require a lot of user input? Would it be more of an all-encompassing medical-wellness instrument rather than a supplemental exercising device?
Right now, the answers are unclear. What is evident: The wearables landscape is changing fast.
In a 2015 report by the Los Angeles Times, University of Phoenix Executive Dean Dennis Bonilla also envisioned the future of wearables as one of nutrition-driven biometrics. (Bonilla is a former Oracle vice president.)
“In the future, your smartwatch will instantly access your medical records, diet and training logs, then sync them with sensors in the supermarket and mall to provide real-time shopping and health advice,” Bonilla told the Times. “Your smart shoes and biometric shirts will remind you to straighten your posture, hydrate and run and walk with correct form to protect your back and knees. A smart bandage will tell diabetics when their blood sugar is running low.”
Beyond nutrition, Williams is also interested in how health insurance companies and device manufacturers will continue to work together to incentivize healthy consumer behavior. From a fitness-technology standpoint, he views health insurance as a “holy grail,” lauding a recent collaboration between UnitedHealthcare and Fitbit.
Additionally, Williams predicts that exercisers’ movements will eventually power device batteries via “charged clothing.” He also envisions smarter clothing-embedded sensors capable of providing deeper health insights.
No matter the changes ahead, FitWell President Ted Vickey told Club Industry that fitness industry professionals from all types of clubs must, No. 1, recognize wearable devices as a disruptive force and, No. 2, utilize them for the long-term benefit of clients.