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Wearable computers: How wearable technology keeps you fit

Smartwatches and sports trackers are the best-known representatives of their genre: Wearable technologies have long since conquered the market. But what exactly can wearable technology do? What happens to the data? And how will wearable technology change our lives in the future?

You surely know these days: First you have stress at work, then in the late afternoon a rain front appears in front of your window. Who thinks of sport? At least one fitness tracker stays consistent. He dutifully signals to you: Only 3,000 steps today. Your calorie consumption is more than modest. At least your heart rate is normal. But you still have to stick to your fitness plan!

Couch potatoes in need of motivation and experienced hobby athletes in particular are increasingly using sports trackers to monitor their fitness. This makes it easier for them to assess whether they are making progress or whether a little more motivation is needed to achieve their goals.


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What can sports trackers do?

Fitness trackers look like simple wrist bands. Sometimes there is also a watch. But what looks like an inconspicuous accessory can do a lot more. Depending on the model, a powerful mini computer is hidden behind it.

The features at a glance:

  • Basics: The cheapest option counts how long you were active throughout the day and how many steps you have taken. The calorie consumption is also recorded. Some devices also have a built-in MP3 player if you want to listen to music on the go. But there are many more features that more expensive devices have.
  • Connection with the smartphone: The fitness tracker only runs in top form when it is connected to the smartphone. Because this is how push messages let you know whether you have achieved your training goals. When it is time to exercise, an alarm will sound.
  • Connect with your community: Perhaps you are also driven by the opportunity to compare your performance values ​​with your friends or an internet community. So you can see who ran the most today. Or whether your friend Paul was too lazy to lace up your running shoes again.
  • Emails and calls: You can keep in touch with your friends while exercising. Some fitness trackers can also receive calls or send emails.
  • Heart rate measurement: This data provides much more accurate records of your training than wearables or apps that only work with motion sensors. In this way you can also check your current stress and sleep quality.

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  • Sleep analysis: This feature provides comprehensive data on your light and deep sleep phases. The fitness tracker wakes you up exactly before the next deep sleep phase occurs. This makes it easier to get up.
  • Automatic activity detection: Some fitness trackers know whether you are cycling or climbing stairs. This gives you a comprehensive evaluation of all your activities. - GPS: This feature helps to track differences in altitude and to find your way back home away from the road. - Water resistance: you can take some models with you to the swimming pool!
  • GPS: This feature helps to track differences in altitude and to find your way back home away from the road.
  • Water resistance: You can take some models with you to the swimming pool!

Calorie apps or pedometers are of course also available for Android devices or iPhones. But it is significantly larger than the compact fitness band that you can easily take with you anywhere. In addition, high-end fitness trackers have functions that smartphones cannot. Or does your smartphone automatically call the emergency services if you fall? Even irregularities in the cardiovascular system come to light with fitness trackers. They are particularly suitable for those who like to do a lot of sport, need a boost in motivation or are part of the followers of the quantified self movement. People with this lifestyle love to learn more about their body and fitness from data.

App: Pacer

The app not only counts your steps, but also shows the calories burned and distance.

Download

App: Lifesum

Lifesum acts as a diet planner and calorie counter. You will also find recipes in the app that perfectly match your diet.

Download

Smartwatch instead of smartphone?

Fitness trackers are increasingly becoming activity watches because they offer more and more functions. In principle, fitness trackers are designed to collect and measure data. Smartwatches, on the other hand, are designed for everyday life.

Many smartwatches can now do almost everything that your smartphone can do: you can use the smart watch to make phone calls, write text messages, use apps, navigate through foreign cities or have foreign languages ​​translated. To accomplish these tasks, many smartwatches are equipped with a voice assistant. So you don't have to operate the small display manually and you always have your hands free. Some models connect to the Internet without WiFi or a smartphone.


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If you have bluetooth headphones, you can also listen to music with the smartwatch. You can also pay with some devices - at least if you can use your credit card or buy a virtual one.

However, it is questionable whether the smartwatch will replace the smartphone in the near future. Because the smart watches are only conditionally suitable for surfing. You can read on the small display, but you have to scroll all the time. You also need to hold your arm so that you can see enough. That tires in the long run. It's similar with making a phone call: you can take calls, but you have to hold your arm in front of your face to hear the person you are speaking to. Another drawback: the battery barely lasts all day. So you always have to have charging cables with you. The technology is obviously not so advanced that you can do without a smartphone completely.

The pros and cons of smartwatches at a glance:

Per

  • small and designed for the wrist, so always close by
  • Operation via voice assistant
  • Apps, navigation and voice translation possible
  • Battery barely lasts a day
  • Telephoning and writing SMS possible
  • Music via bluetooth headphones
  • Payment by credit card is possible in some cases
  • many features of a fitness band, e.g. B. Pulse measurement

Contra

  • small display, interferes with e.g. video streaming
  • manual operation cumbersome due to small buttons
  • Surfing exhausting, a lot of scrolling necessary
  • Telephoning awkward because the device has to be held in front of the face
  • Battery barely lasts a day

Data protection at Wearable Technology doubtful

The consumer advice center Baden-Württemberg warns that users of wearable devices must always retain data sovereignty. In other words: You have to be able to decide who receives all the sensitive data that is recorded thanks to wearable technology. This is especially relevant for fitness trackers that know your body almost by heart. However, according to the market watchdog, it is usually unclear what the details of the data will be used for. Data leaks cannot be ruled out.

Most consumers do not know what data is being stored and shared. It is therefore advisable to only collect the data that you really need. You can also limit the data collection frenzy of your Health Band by removing it when you are not doing any sport.

Wearable Technology: Where is the journey of the future headed?

With annual growth of 43 percent, wearable technology is one of the fastest developing segments of the high-tech industry. That means there will be many more wearable technologies in the future. As Brett S. Martin writes in his book “Inside Wearable Technology”, there are already smart hats, smart hearing aids, smart chips and insulin pumps, and smart clothing. Not to forget the smart glasses, which are also increasingly entering the market.


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Researchers are also developing wearable technologies for the sick. Neuropsychologists are working on a device that anxious patients can attach to their wrist. When a panic wave comes, the device changes the brain's reaction via touch points. This makes them less sensitive to stress. According to the American Psychological Association, the first models of this device are already on the market. But wearable technology can also help in the rehabilitation of stroke patients, according to the Journal of Rehabilitation and Assistive Technologies Engineering. The sensors show the patient's progress and help them regain their old motor skills step by step.

In principle, the devices are always lighter and easier to use, so that they are likely to become more widespread in the future. Thanks to tiny sensors, they could even one day be built into our bodies. So man and machine will merge more and more.

Of course, there is one thing that a sports tracker will never replace: exercise itself. If you want to stay fit, you have to do sports. With or without an activity band! That's why you will find a lot of inspiration with us on how to burn calories and keep fit.

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Jeannette Stowasser

Jeannette is an online health editor and has been writing articles, e-books and white papers on a wide variety of medical topics since 2011.

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