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What Wearable Is Right for You?

10.08.2022
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In 2020 the global wearable technology market was estimated to be almost 41 billion USD. With the number of wearable technology companies entering the marketplace exploding, it can be overwhelming to decide what device is worth investing in. The following article explains the top categories of wearable technology for sport, and what you should look for when researching what is right for you!

Physiologic Biomarkers

Devices that non-invasively measure physiologic biomarkers, such as heart rate, heart rate variability, and respiratory rate, among others, are the most commonly thought of when talking about wearable technology. However, as the demand for these technologies continues to grow, so too does the overwhelming number of products in the market. When researching what wearable device might best fit you, focus on the following categories: battery life, capabilities, the type of activity it is designed for, and user interface.

Battery Life : The battery life of wearable devices is vast and often depends on what capabilities can be performed. The Apple Watch has a battery life of 18 hours, which often leads users to skip out on tracking sleep. Meanwhile, GPS companies such as Garmin and Coros claim battery lives that can reach up to 14-days, but that time can be decreased by activating GPS. Devices such as Whoop, Biostrap, and Oura that are designed screenless claim to have batteries that last between 3-7 days. While this is reduced from the GPS companies, it is important to note that these companies are solely focused on collecting biometric data, which requires a lot of battery life.

Capabilities: As a general rule of thumb, a technology designed to assess physiologic biomarkers will all be equipped with a sensor to detect heart rate and a pedometer to track steps. In addition, companies now offer capabilities related to ECG readings to detect atrial fibrillation, heart rate variability, and pulse oximeter measures, among others. Additionally, many wearable devices utilize GPS and GLONASS tracking to provide the most accurate measures of pace, location, and distance traveled. Many companies offer additional social capabilities, such as mirroring phone notifications. Some companies operate screenless, saving both battery life and distractions during exercise. With each additional capability allotted to a device, the price rises accordingly.

Activity Distinction: General fit-tech companies, such as Apple and Fitbit, offer a one-size fits all approach. Users pay for a device that can track daily movements, caloric expenditure, and basic biometrics. However, the differentiator for these companies is that they also offer access to notifications and touch screen responses, much in the same way that your phone does. Alternatively, companies like Garmin and Coros take an individualistic approach when designing their devices. Lastly, companies like Whoop do not design different wearables for individual athlete classes but are focused on data-driven populations.

User Interface: Technology companies design their app interfaces with a specific population in mind. For example, Apple provides an easy-to-see ring structure that allows users to see how they are faring throughout the day in terms of steps, exercise minutes, and active calories burned. Alternatively, Garmin displays a scroll through a list of metrics such as training status, heart rate, stress level, and respiration rate. Whoop, on the other hand, displays a strain rate as it compares to athlete readiness on a given day. Being that Apple is designed for the recreationally active businessperson, the ease of the interface provides valuable metrics, while not overwhelming the user. Garmin, focusing on training athletes primarily, provides actionable metrics specific to training state. And Whoop, primarily used by athletes to maximize performance, provides metrics that allow users to gauge readiness and training strain.

page0 5.JPG

The top image is of the Whoop interface taken from the Whoop blog (1), the bottom left is an image of the author's Garmin interface, and the bottom right image shows the Apple ring interface.

Click here to view an interactive table of recommended watches for sport.

Player Tracking Less well known to the general public, Player Tracking devices provide objective data regarding athlete exertion, workload, and performance based on metrics derived from inertial measurement units (IMUs). It may seem as though these devices are targeted specifically at large organizations like the NFL or EPL, but most devices have units that can be sold and used by individual players. When assessing what tracking unit may be worth the investment consider the following variables: capturing frequency, placement, and user interface.

Capturing Frequency: To measure rapid changes of directions, and quick impacts, and keep up with the overall fast-paced nature of team sports, it is imperative that devices record at high frequencies. The higher the frequency, the more data points the device captures per minute, the more accurate it is. Most players in this field of wearable tech have frequencies that range between 10-20 Hz.

Placement: The physical demands of specific sports place strain on different areas of the body. For example, field sports, such as soccer, American Football, and rugby often require rotational motions in addition to frequent sprinting and change of directions. As such, placing a sensor near the midline seems promising. However, for activities such as tennis and baseball that have more strain placed on a specific area of the body like the wrist or the elbow, placing the sensor near the midline might not accurately measure the strain the dominant limb is undergoing in a given session.

User Interface: Player tracking was originally designed for the sports scientist, and sometimes the amount of data on the interface can be overwhelming. However, some companies, such as Catapult, offer a simplified version of their software. Meanwhile, other companies, such as STATSports, provide users with similar metrics and compare them to professional athlete values, providing some context.

StatsPerform.jpg Image taken from STATSports.com (2)

Metabolic Monitoring Metabolic monitoring devices, such as continuous glucose monitors (CGMs), are often designed for populations who suffer from chronic diseases. However, as societal focus on health and wellness has increased, so has the adaptation of such devices to the public. The following summarization of metabolic monitoring devices on the market is focused on the health-conscious user. If you are looking for a metabolic device specified for diabetes, please consult your doctor, as they will likely provide more individualized advice.

Price per sensor: Metabolic tracking is inherently expensive, as it is a medical-grade technology for at-home use. The most costly aspect of metabolic tracking is the sensors themselves, rather than the software. Each sensor lasts between 7-14 days, so companies will often offer a monthly fee that supplies you with two sensors to last the whole month. The price of the sensors can range anywhere from $169/month up to $350/month. Ultimately, the amount you are paying will depend on which company you prefer overall and how many months you are planning to use the software for (the longer you subscribe, the less expensive the sensors will be).

Compatibility with smartphones: Being that glucose monitoring devices were designed for diabetic patients, many companies offer CGMs that will notify individuals of relatively clinical concerns (i.e., when blood glucose is dangerously high). Recent developments have even integrated an insulin pump along with the monitoring device. However, if you are looking to simply track how your body responds to certain foods, such high-tech devices are not necessary. Alternatively, you should look to invest in companies that integrate their sensor readings with an iOS or Android-compatible app. Such apps allow users to visualize blood glucose levels and log the foods that lead to such increases in glucose throughout the day.

User interface: As mentioned in the previous section, many less-clinical CGMs provide users with an easy-to-use interface with which to view their ever-changing blood glucose levels. Interfaces often allow users to visualize their glucose levels throughout the day, and input when and what they ate at specific phases. Often, the software will assign an arbitrary score to meals indicating whether it was glucose spiking (i.e., it caused a short spike in glucose) or glucose stabilizing (i.e., glucose increased, but it was a steady increase and steady decrease). Some interfaces take these metrics a step further. Such data-heavy companies provide individuals with metrics ranging from peak glucose levels to individual meal graphs.

Supersapiens .png

Image taken from SuperSapiens Blog (3)

Click here to view an interactive table of recommended continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) and player tracking devices.

References

[1] Labs, D. I. “How Does WHOOP Recovery Work?” WHOOP, https://www.whoop.com/thelocker/how-does-whoop-recovery-work-101/. Accessed 23 July 2022.

[2] “APEX Athlete Series | NCFC Edition.” STATSports, https://shop.statsports.com/products/apex-athlete-series-ncfc-edition. Accessed 23 July 2022.

[3] “Everything You Need to Know About Good & Bad Glucose Spikes.” Supersapiens, 15 Apr. 2022, https://blog.supersapiens.com/glucose-rush-vs-rise/.

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page0_3_bb72af0497

In 2020 the global wearable technology market was estimated to be almost 41 billion USD. With the number of wearable technology companies entering the marketplace exploding, it can be overwhelming to decide what device is worth investing in. The following article explains the top categories of wearable technology for sport, and what you should look for when researching what is right for you!

Physiologic Biomarkers

Devices that non-invasively measure physiologic biomarkers, such as heart rate, heart rate variability, and respiratory rate, among others, are the most commonly thought of when talking about wearable technology. However, as the demand for these technologies continues to grow, so too does the overwhelming number of products in the market. When researching what wearable device might best fit you, focus on the following categories: battery life, capabilities, the type of activity it is designed for, and user interface.

Battery Life : The battery life of wearable devices is vast and often depends on what capabilities can be performed. The Apple Watch has a battery life of 18 hours, which often leads users to skip out on tracking sleep. Meanwhile, GPS companies such as Garmin and Coros claim battery lives that can reach up to 14-days, but that time can be decreased by activating GPS. Devices such as Whoop, Biostrap, and Oura that are designed screenless claim to have batteries that last between 3-7 days. While this is reduced from the GPS companies, it is important to note that these companies are solely focused on collecting biometric data, which requires a lot of battery life.

Capabilities: As a general rule of thumb, a technology designed to assess physiologic biomarkers will all be equipped with a sensor to detect heart rate and a pedometer to track steps. In addition, companies now offer capabilities related to ECG readings to detect atrial fibrillation, heart rate variability, and pulse oximeter measures, among others. Additionally, many wearable devices utilize GPS and GLONASS tracking to provide the most accurate measures of pace, location, and distance traveled. Many companies offer additional social capabilities, such as mirroring phone notifications. Some companies operate screenless, saving both battery life and distractions during exercise. With each additional capability allotted to a device, the price rises accordingly.

Activity Distinction: General fit-tech companies, such as Apple and Fitbit, offer a one-size fits all approach. Users pay for a device that can track daily movements, caloric expenditure, and basic biometrics. However, the differentiator for these companies is that they also offer access to notifications and touch screen responses, much in the same way that your phone does. Alternatively, companies like Garmin and Coros take an individualistic approach when designing their devices. Lastly, companies like Whoop do not design different wearables for individual athlete classes but are focused on data-driven populations.

User Interface: Technology companies design their app interfaces with a specific population in mind. For example, Apple provides an easy-to-see ring structure that allows users to see how they are faring throughout the day in terms of steps, exercise minutes, and active calories burned. Alternatively, Garmin displays a scroll through a list of metrics such as training status, heart rate, stress level, and respiration rate. Whoop, on the other hand, displays a strain rate as it compares to athlete readiness on a given day. Being that Apple is designed for the recreationally active businessperson, the ease of the interface provides valuable metrics, while not overwhelming the user. Garmin, focusing on training athletes primarily, provides actionable metrics specific to training state. And Whoop, primarily used by athletes to maximize performance, provides metrics that allow users to gauge readiness and training strain.

page0 5.JPG

The top image is of the Whoop interface taken from the Whoop blog (1), the bottom left is an image of the author's Garmin interface, and the bottom right image shows the Apple ring interface.

Click here to view an interactive table of recommended watches for sport.

Player Tracking Less well known to the general public, Player Tracking devices provide objective data regarding athlete exertion, workload, and performance based on metrics derived from inertial measurement units (IMUs). It may seem as though these devices are targeted specifically at large organizations like the NFL or EPL, but most devices have units that can be sold and used by individual players. When assessing what tracking unit may be worth the investment consider the following variables: capturing frequency, placement, and user interface.

Capturing Frequency: To measure rapid changes of directions, and quick impacts, and keep up with the overall fast-paced nature of team sports, it is imperative that devices record at high frequencies. The higher the frequency, the more data points the device captures per minute, the more accurate it is. Most players in this field of wearable tech have frequencies that range between 10-20 Hz.

Placement: The physical demands of specific sports place strain on different areas of the body. For example, field sports, such as soccer, American Football, and rugby often require rotational motions in addition to frequent sprinting and change of directions. As such, placing a sensor near the midline seems promising. However, for activities such as tennis and baseball that have more strain placed on a specific area of the body like the wrist or the elbow, placing the sensor near the midline might not accurately measure the strain the dominant limb is undergoing in a given session.

User Interface: Player tracking was originally designed for the sports scientist, and sometimes the amount of data on the interface can be overwhelming. However, some companies, such as Catapult, offer a simplified version of their software. Meanwhile, other companies, such as STATSports, provide users with similar metrics and compare them to professional athlete values, providing some context.

StatsPerform.jpg Image taken from STATSports.com (2)

Metabolic Monitoring Metabolic monitoring devices, such as continuous glucose monitors (CGMs), are often designed for populations who suffer from chronic diseases. However, as societal focus on health and wellness has increased, so has the adaptation of such devices to the public. The following summarization of metabolic monitoring devices on the market is focused on the health-conscious user. If you are looking for a metabolic device specified for diabetes, please consult your doctor, as they will likely provide more individualized advice.

Price per sensor: Metabolic tracking is inherently expensive, as it is a medical-grade technology for at-home use. The most costly aspect of metabolic tracking is the sensors themselves, rather than the software. Each sensor lasts between 7-14 days, so companies will often offer a monthly fee that supplies you with two sensors to last the whole month. The price of the sensors can range anywhere from $169/month up to $350/month. Ultimately, the amount you are paying will depend on which company you prefer overall and how many months you are planning to use the software for (the longer you subscribe, the less expensive the sensors will be).

Compatibility with smartphones: Being that glucose monitoring devices were designed for diabetic patients, many companies offer CGMs that will notify individuals of relatively clinical concerns (i.e., when blood glucose is dangerously high). Recent developments have even integrated an insulin pump along with the monitoring device. However, if you are looking to simply track how your body responds to certain foods, such high-tech devices are not necessary. Alternatively, you should look to invest in companies that integrate their sensor readings with an iOS or Android-compatible app. Such apps allow users to visualize blood glucose levels and log the foods that lead to such increases in glucose throughout the day.

User interface: As mentioned in the previous section, many less-clinical CGMs provide users with an easy-to-use interface with which to view their ever-changing blood glucose levels. Interfaces often allow users to visualize their glucose levels throughout the day, and input when and what they ate at specific phases. Often, the software will assign an arbitrary score to meals indicating whether it was glucose spiking (i.e., it caused a short spike in glucose) or glucose stabilizing (i.e., glucose increased, but it was a steady increase and steady decrease). Some interfaces take these metrics a step further. Such data-heavy companies provide individuals with metrics ranging from peak glucose levels to individual meal graphs.

Supersapiens .png

Image taken from SuperSapiens Blog (3)

Click here to view an interactive table of recommended continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) and player tracking devices.

References

[1] Labs, D. I. “How Does WHOOP Recovery Work?” WHOOP, https://www.whoop.com/thelocker/how-does-whoop-recovery-work-101/. Accessed 23 July 2022.

[2] “APEX Athlete Series | NCFC Edition.” STATSports, https://shop.statsports.com/products/apex-athlete-series-ncfc-edition. Accessed 23 July 2022.

[3] “Everything You Need to Know About Good & Bad Glucose Spikes.” Supersapiens, 15 Apr. 2022, https://blog.supersapiens.com/glucose-rush-vs-rise/.

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