The Worst in Wearables, 2015

February 9, 2015

We’re still in the early stages of fitness wearables. For proof, look no further than the new wearables introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the tech industry’s biggest trade show held every January in Las Vegas.

Put bluntly, as it was in a recent Bloomberg BusinessWeek article about two of the worst offenders: “The Smart Ring and the Smart Belt Are Actually Kind of Stupid.”

The so-called smart ring, called… wait for it… “Ring,” allows the wearer to turn lights on and off and open and close curtains with a flick of a finger. Kind of like Mary Poppins cleaning the childrens’ bedroom in the song, “A Spoonful of Sugar.”

Belty, the other wearable lampooned in the Bloomberg BusinessWeek article, is a belt that tightens and loosens depending on whether the wearer is sitting or standing. It also vibrates if the wearer has been sitting for too long.

While we might not rush to judgment that these products are “stupid,” they do reflect a basic theme of recent wearable unveilings: The technology is here; the utility, not so much. For those old enough to remember, or fans of old TV, just think the 1960s TV show “The Jetsons.”

For those unfamiliar with it, The Jetsons featured a decidedly-retro futuristic family: George and Jane, their children, Judy and Elmo, and of course, Astro, the family dog. The technology in the show is kitschy and entertaining — outlandish by design. Remember the auto-hygiene machines and treadmills floating in space?

But if fitness wearables are going to become widely accepted as key components of employer-sponsored wellness programs, they’re going to have to stay fun while getting a whole lot more functional. As we wrote in our previous posts on fitness apps and the challenge of pinning down ROI for wellness programs, there are still many obstacles to successfully implementing wellness programs and getting the most out of wearable health devices.

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