If there's a theme to this week's wearable tech news, I reckon it's democratisation. By that I mean making information accessible to the masses. Information would otherwise be either unobtainable without a doctor or prohibitively expensive, be it medical-grade insights or data to measure your athletic performance.
I'll start with the biggest bit of news from the week: the announcement of the Garmin Vivosmart 3. Yes, we revealed this a few weeks back, but now it's official; in fact, I have it on my wrist right now. We'll have a full review for you soon, but on first impressions it seems to be trying to cover a lot of bases at once, for better or worse (TBD). Most interesting is the addition of stress tracking throughout the day. I need to spend a bit more time with it before I give my verdict, but this yet another bit of biological info that we can use to make positive changes to our health. After all, we're constantly told that stress is the silent killer, right?
Next up we have a little company named Apple, said to be working on non-invasive sensors for detecting blood glucose levels. Such an achievement would be nothing short of a breakthrough, and could put essential information into the hand of diabetes sufferers without intrusive poking or blood drawing. What's more, it could be offered for a relatively low cost if it were included on the Apple Watch.
Elsewhere, Catapult Sports was busy launching its Playertek smart vest that lets football players (that's soccer to all you Americans) track their performance and see how they compare to the pros. Observing things like distance covered, sprint distance and sprint distance, the vest can even produce heat maps for added insight. This kind of access isn't only valuable to players of course, but coaches too.
And let's not forget Calm, which has made an ECG sensor to ensure you're training safely and sleeping properly. Again, it's about that access to information that has been historically hard to get to with ease - in this case, irregular heartbeats - and placing it in our hands.
While I'm enjoying riffing on this theme, I should probably address the other big news of the week: Fitbit's smartwatch. The latest word is… not great. It's allegedly plagued with troubles in both hardware and software. The company is said to have tripped on the device's GPS, while waterproofing is also proving tricky - and could result with Fitbit shipping yet another device that can't be taken in the pool. As for software, this is reportedly a problem with apps, and could mean the Fitbit watch launches with a series of custom-made applications instead of the full-blown app store that was initially promised. On the plus side, the watch is said to include built-in payments, four days of battery life, and a nice and bright 1,000 nit screen. So it's not all bad news.
I'll sign off by circling back to my theme by imploring you to check out our roundup of the 20 hottest startups for 2017. We've been closely watching and speaking to these companies over the past few months, and they're all doing amazing things, from InteraXon's stress-busting sunglasses to LVL's hydration-monitoring tracker, to VivaLnk's medical-grade eSkin wearables. We always try to make each year the "year of" something. So, if information is power, I think 2017 is about bringing power to the people.
This week's big features
- How wearables will shape the hospital of the futureFrom VR training to biosensor patches, here's what's coming next
- This tech lets you express emotions in VRThe uncanny valley beckons
- How these wearable tech companies for their namesWhen in doubt, go Latin
- Vitali's smart bra wants to fight stressWe speak to the startup on a mission to help you keep calm
- 20 hottest wearable tech startups to watchThese small companies are making big waves in the world of wearables