A fitness revolution: Has COVID-19 pandemic paved the way for wearable health devices?

Fitness has moved on from pedometers to step-tracking bands and has finally moved to smartwatches. Industry experts tell us about their stint in the market during the pandemic.
Representational Image
Representational ImageThe Bridge Chronicle

Technology and fitness are a great combination, especially now that we're going through a 'digital reconstruction'. What started with a modest pedometer on our phones is now seeing a glow-up like no other. In fact, it hasn't only advanced, but it has also made sure to make its mark in uncharted domains. Today, several well-known tech-giants have introduced one-too-many innovations, and fitness bands can now do a lot more than track your steps.

Several have moved on from fitness bands to more comprehensive smartwatches that have revolutionalised the way we perceive 'digital' health. What could once only track steps can now endure a rigorous swimming exercise and scuba diving!

According to a study published by Statista, smartwatch and wearable shipments worldwide are forecast to grow in the following years, increasing from 69.3 million units in 2019 to over 109 million units by 2023. The report also mentions how smartwatches are now considered a vital segment of the global wearables industry.

It additionally states how this pattern is contributing significantly to the global unit shipments of wearable devices. Another report published by The Global Market for Smart Wearables revealed how smart wearables, smart glasses, sports and fitness devices are forecast to gain notable pace through 2021. It further mentions some factors that anticipated to propel the demand for wearable devices in the next six years. Those include:

  • IT spending

  • Rising health concerns

  • The growing popularity of smart wearables among consumers

  • An expanding smartphone user base globally

  • Continuously declining prices of smart wearables

"Due to the pandemic, everyone has become health conscious. People started fearing their life, people started fearing their health," said Mr Sagar Shah, senior firmware engineer at Matrix Industries. Mr Shah, who was instrumental in designing the PowerWatch 2, talked about how the demand for their smartwatch was earlier lukewarm. "The PowerWatch 2 is specifically designed for athletes who don't have to charge the device for a year -- at least! However, it wasn't until now that we noticed people actively investing in it. People have now started moving towards health fitness bands, not just because it's more accurate but also because it is feasible. They are moving towards this trend, and it is going to change a lot of in the coming years," he added.

However, despite the initial drop in sales during the pandemic, the first quarter of 2021 looks hopeful for brands. In fact, the future of wearable devices in the country looks promising with the OnePlus Band making its mark in the Indian markets in January. "The OnePlus Band is our first-ever wearable device and also our first step towards a connected ecosystem, that we want to make more accessible," said Vikas Agarwal, General Manager at OnePlus India.

Allied Market Research's forecast on the fitness tracker market between 2017 to 2023.
Allied Market Research's forecast on the fitness tracker market between 2017 to 2023.Allied Market Research

"We have included rare fitness trackers that feature blood oxygen saturation (SpO2) monitor – an important addition to have in these times. Monitoring SpO2 levels can help users detect early warning signs for health issues, especially when done continuously with sleep tracking," he added. Talking about the response post-COVID times, Mr Agarwal mentions how the health features are particularly well received. "The SpO2 monitoring feature in the OnePlus Band has been a truly remarkable addition that elevates the experience for the community," he concluded.

Among the wearable devices that entered the market early, there was also Syska. "Due to the pandemic, consumers were fearful about stepping out and visiting crowded spaces such as gyms and fitness centres. This accelerated the need for fitness products such as fitness bands and smart wearables," said Gurumukh Uttamchandani, Executive Director of SYSKA Group. "To meet the requirements of health enthusiasts and to make their experience of working out from home seamless, we at Syska entered the smart wearables category at this opportune moment," he stated. The band which entered the wearables market in July 2020, launched their first product -- the Syska SW100 Smartwatch -- at an affordable price point to target health and fitness conscious customers.

"The smartwatch has been designed for consumers who are looking for a product that can assist them in tracking their entire fitness journey right from monitoring their sleep and number of steps, to heart rate, calorie intake and more," Mr Uttamchandani said. "We witnessed immense demand for the smartwatch, especially from the tier two and tier three cities of the country," he added.

Reports produced by Allied Market Research forecast the growth of the fitness tracker market up to $62,128 million by 2023. Despite the development, the risk of data theft and tampering of information still lingers over the industry. Whether or not the trend continues post-pandemic, this is perhaps the right time to implement your fitness new year resolutions!

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