Whether 2014 is indeed the "year of the wearable" as predicted at International CES remains to be seen, but there's no doubt that the ability to capture data about lifestyle and exercise habits is significantly impacting the way people work out — and there's still a great deal of potential to be realized. "When people engage with tech, they're beginning to expect that something is being captured about that experience," says David Flynt, director of Precor's Experience Development Center. "Today's wearables are really great at capture. What we want to be able to do is reflect back to them something that is able to give them control over that data. We're looking at how to help them understand what that data means."
The list of wearable devices on the market grows longer every day, as does the list of metrics that can be tracked. "We're watching and waiting," says Flynt, explaining that Precor has no interest in throwing its hat into the wearables ring but is instead reserving its resources until a winner is crowned. "The question we have is, 'What is the best use of that data to create an insight or action with our platform?' Let's say you had an application that was tracking calories consumed during a day. You want to manage your intake and achieve a weight goal. When you jump on a piece of equipment, what's relevant to the exerciser is 'Just tell me how much I have to burn today.' The rest of it might not be as valuable."
As a global trainer for LifeFitness Academy, Melissa DiLeonardo says wearables are a welcome asset to her work. "Whether or not a wearable device is 100 percent accurate is moot," she says. "When people use a wearable, activity levels increase. It's drawing attention to daily activity and giving them a little nudge."
It's a tool that can be used to educate and empower a user, she adds. "I can tell someone something over and over again, but until they see it or experience it personally, they might not make that change. When I've had clients begin wearing an activity tracker, the numbers start to make a lot more sense to them and drive them to be more motivated."