by Shruti Bose
April 28th, 2016

Wearable health trackers are today what mobile phones were more than a decade ago – everyone wants them. In recent years, wearable health trackers have moved from a ‘health trend’ to a lifestyle essential. When Fitbit, Jawbone and other health wearables came out, many viewed them as passing fads. But they struck a real chord not only with those who regularly exercise, but mainstream consumers too.

No longer the badge of fitness enthusiasts alone, they are fast gaining traction in Singapore, and expanding globally. The International Data Corporation (IDC), an American market research, analysis and advisory firm predicts the number of trackers will jump from 20 million in 2014 to over 120 million by 2019.

What is driving this growth, and why?

A closer connection
More than making us fit, health trackers kick-start conversations. They have a positive impact on the way we lead our lives by giving us insight into ourselves, enabling us to interact in new ways, connecting via social groups based around the trackers app, allowing us to share our fitness challenges and successes, even compete with each for top position on the leader board.

Concurrently, people’s lifestyles are becoming healthier (or at least more health-conscious). These trends, especially in Singapore, make health trackers a value added device.

Makes us move
On average, Singaporeans clock in the second longest working hours in the world, even more than countries such as Japan and South Korea. This is bad news, especially to those who are desk bound at work, as prolonged inactivity slows down metabolism. By putting our bodily statistics in plain sight, health trackers motivate us to keep our health in check.

Most wearable health trackers today come equipped with:

  • Step-counter to track daily steps and activity like calories burned, active time, etc.
  • Heart rate watcher to monitor your heart beats whether you’re resting or playing sports
  • Alerts to encourage you through the day and remind you to stay active

It is data like this that is helping users keep a close eye on their health, be cognisant of their daily movements and set fitness goals after or during office hours.

Motivation as top-of-mind
Thanks to reminders and regular alerts, users are more active during working hours. Despite a busy schedule, many make an extra effort to take a short break, walk to the pantry or do a quick stretch. While these simple steps may not be burning a huge amount of calories, it nevertheless cultivates the habit of moving around.

In addition, health trackers motivate us. Users can access the latest statistics on their progress through the device or the phone app, helping them stay updated on their targeted goals.

Accuracy a non-factor
Although some skeptics have disputed that health trackers do not provide 100% accurate readings, users say that accuracy makes little difference at the end of the day. To get an accurate indication of their health, many opt to go to a doctor instead of relying solely on a gadget. The end goal, however, is to keep users aware and motivated about their fitness achievements.

For the ‘always-on’ consumer, wearables, apps and digital diagnostics have become a health management tool, allowing them to take ownership of their healthcare destinies like never before. While they hold a greater promise to better health, for brands in the healthcare space, they are also valuable factories of health data. The ability to aggregate, sort and analyse large amounts of data can be used by consumers to manage their health and by healthcare companies to develop and implement solutions that can support the users’ quality of life.

With the cost of healthcare in Singapore expected to rise to $13 billion by 2020, technology-driven trends may be a complementary approach to addressing medical challenges.

Investments in the software side of this emerging industry is as important as the hardware. As consumers begin to introduce such devices into their daily lives, we are bound to see newer and more improved innovations in wearable technologies that promise to entertain, all with the intent of enabling them to live healthier lives.

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