M2M Gets GPS Fitness Watches in Shape


Wearable technology may have once been the stuff of spy movies and sci-fi fiction novels, but as the mobile lifestyle continues to gain traction, it is only a matter of time before the concept becomes reality. In fact, in many ways, it is already happening, thanks in part to M2M connectivity.

Take the fitness watch as an example. In its early days, the device was nothing more than a timer, helping runners take minutes off their time or manually figure out their own heart rate. Now, fitness watches are jam-packed with smart features, whether they are using ANT+ to communicate with a heart rate monitor or a sensor to count swim strokes. In all, the technology is enabled thanks in part to M2M communications.

Even GPS technology is quickly becoming a standard feature on today’s fitness watches. ABI Research, www.abiresearch.com, estimates the GPS fitness watch market is set to reach $1.07 billion in 2013—that’s 50% more than it was in 2012. Senior analyst Patrick Connolly says shipment estimates of GPS chips indicate the trend will only pick up, especially as device prices come down.

Last year’s price drop of Motorola’s MOTOACTV watch, for example, showed just how low a feature-rich fitness watch can go. In July, the company dropped the price of the 8GB model to just $150. That’s a pretty good price tag, considering the fitness watch is equipped with sensors and GPS to track key activity metrics like distance, time, and speed. It can also act as an MP3 player.

Several new players are also entering the market, and others are expanding their presence—two more indications that this category is growing beyond niche. At this year’s CES, several start-ups were showing health and fitness watches. Leikr, www.leikr.com, a Danish based start-up of ex-Nokia engineers, showed a prototype of a GPS fitness watch they claim will be less bulky, easier to operate, and have a get a faster GPS signal than others on the market. Other new entrants include California-based Pebble, www.getpebble.com, and Basis, www.mybasis.com.

Existing players are also expanding their reach. Well-known GPS device maker Magellan, www.magellangps.com, announced earlier this month that it is expanding the worldwide availability of its Switch Series of crossover GPS watches to Europe. The company has even added additional languages to its web site to accommodate its new European users.

It is clear the market for GPS fitness watches is on the rise. At this point, it would be little surprise if these devices started showing up at the gym or on the track just as often—and maybe lieu of—MP3 players. All in all, thanks to the power of M2M communications.

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