Welcome to another Week in wearable tech – where this week we honour Withings, one of our favourite connected-tech brands, which this week officially changed over to become part of Nokia.
The deal was done back in April 2016, but Withings products have remained on the shelves, with little noticeable activity. But this week Wareable was invited to the company's HQ in Paris, where the Withings standard was taken down for good, and the last traces of its branding was removed.
The company was founded in 2008 and its first product, the WiFi Body scale, followed in 2009, and is still a major part of the line-up today. A connected blood pressure monitor followed in 2011, with the Withings Pulse fitness tracker – its first wearable – in 2013.
True to wearable tech at the time it was pig-ugly, but with a heart rate monitor built in that read blood oxygen, it was really forward-thinking. It also boasted one of the best ecosystems - Health Mate - which melded data from the scale, fitness tracker and blood pressure monitor. It remains a gold standard in fitness platforms, and was a Wareable Tech Awards winner in 2016.
In 2015 the company unveiled the Withings Activité, a sleek looking analogue watch with fitness tracking built in, which became the Steel HR in 2017 – itself a stellar device. But more than just a fitness tracker, Activité was a precursor to the hybrid watch market, which has now been embraced by the likes of Fossil, and singled out by IDC for being a huge growth area in wearable tech.
And it's not just gadgets. Our many interviews with CEO Cedric Hutchings since 2014 has shown the company to have one of the firmest grips on how the future of consumer connected healthcare could work. Withings has created medical grade blood pressure monitors, thermometers and scales – and provided a vision of how 'healthcare tech' doesn't have to be synonymous with hospitals and doctor's surgeries.
Features of the week
- Why the future of smart clothing is about feelingWe talk smart yoga pants and more with Wearable X co-founder Billie Whitehouse
- Trying out Catapult's Playertek smart vestAmateur football is about to get a lot more competitive
- The best of HTC Vive X Demo Day Batch 2The tech that could one day be heading to your VR headset
- Wearables from around the world: Next stop, FranceWe check out some of the hottest French wearable tech startups
- Blood pressure is wearable tech's next challengeUnder pressure, but maybe not for long
- Week 5: Race to the Stones diary - Big runThe team head to the hills to see if they're ready for the Race to the Stones
And that's clearly why the company was such a draw for Nokia. The weight of Nokia will mean Cedric and Withings' vision for connected, wearable health technologies has a better chance of making a difference – which is a good thing.
"What we really care about is delivering our solution to as many people as possible," Hutchings told us this week. "And we are convinced we are on the right rocket ship to do it. We are entering a new era in terms of awareness and market reach."
The new brand has already borne fruit. This week has seen a new Withings Body scale and BMP+ monitor that will help users track diastolic and systolic blood pressure and heart rate on the go.
So while Withings has gone onto bigger and better things, allow us this moment to doff our caps to the plunky French startup, which has made such a difference to the wearable and connect technology landscape.
Fitbit targets sleep apnea
Once of Withing's pals from the original Class of Wearable Tech is Fitbit, and a juicy tidbit of news came out of San Francisco this week. A senior scientist has tipped that Fitbit is building a device to detect sleep apnea – a condition that affects the breathing of suffers, and can lead to serious illness.
Conor Heneghan, Fitbit's lead research scientist, revealed that Fitbit devices could use optical technologies detect the oxygenation of blood, using a similar technology to its existing heart rate sensor.
Given the disorder affects 18 million Americans – and those are just the people who have been diagnosed, it could become a key part of the Fitbit ecosystem.
Wearable market to double by 2021
Last week we talked about IDC data that showed that the smartwatch market was gaining traction, as Fitbit struggled in falling sales as was squeezed by both Apple and Xiaomi. Well, this week IDC has published its forecasts for the years ahead, and it claims the wearable market will double by 2021.
So what will fuel that growth? Well, firstly IDC believes smartwatches will grow from 71.4 million to 161 million shipments (+26.5% per year), but it's smart clothing that gets the nod for huge growth, from 3.3 million to 21.6m shipments in 2021.
And what news for fitness trackers and Fitbit. Well, it's not brilliant. Wristbands are only expected to grow 1.2% per year – which means brands like Fitbit will have to find new ways to innovate.