Wearable Market Embraces APIs and the Quantified Self

The wearable fitness and personal health devices market is expanding rapidly and is expected to become a $5 billion market by 2016[1]. More and more companies are introducing sophisticated and fashionable wearable electronics products, all vying for the attention of consumers interested in personal health, fitness culture and quantified self. This was evident at last month's Consumer Electronics Show, where VentureBeat news editor Harrison Weber tried on more than 56 wearables, about 20 of them focusing on health and fitness.

At CES 2015, OMsignal showed off Biometric Smartwear, a line of app-connected biometric smartwear shirts that are worn during workouts and are capable of tracking heart rate, breathing rate, steps and more. Stephane Marceau, OMsignal's co-founder and CEO, recently participated in a panel discussion explaining the company's view of wearables. "If you're going to wear something wearable, it's as much about fashion as it is about data," Marceau said. "It's about self-expression and identity-affirming gesture to wear something, as much as it is about specific use cases to help you live a better life."

Interest in personal wellness and self-improvement has been rapidly increasing in recent years. It's driving the widespread adoption of wearable electronics and will very likely lead to an era where quantified self has gone mainstream. Quantified self refers to the idea of collecting, storing and analyzing personal data using self-tracking applications in order to gain a greater sense of self-awareness and to achieve various levels of self-improvement.

Many companies are not only introducing innovative and fashionable wearable electronics products, but are also providing APIs that developers can use to create applications that help build an ecosystem around their brands, bringing the products in to the Internet of Things. Some of the leading wearable electronics companies have built vibrant app ecosystems by opening up their platforms and providing APIs to developers.

Below are a few examples of companies that sell wearable electronics products. These companies were chosen to show a sampling of the wristband and smartwatch market. Each has released an API, encouraging developers to build third-party applications that extend and improve their platforms. Other companies that sell wearable electronics and provide APIs for developers are Nike, Pebble, Recon Instruments and Sony.



Adidas miCoach supports 14 types of workout activities. Image credit: Adidas

Adidas entered the wearable computing market in November 2013 when the company introduced its first smartwatch, the Adidas miCoach Smart Run. The primary audience for this smartwatch was initially runners who used the product to measure running speed and heart rate, receive heart rate-based coaching, keep track of various workout metrics (distance, stride rate, etc.) and more. Adidas has expanded the types of workout activities that the miCoach Smart Run is capable of tracking, most of which revolve around sports activities. At the time of this writing, miCoach supported 14 types of workout activities, including running, soccer/football, cross-country skiing and tennis.

In August 2014, Adidas quietly launched the miCoach API, which allows developers to build third-party miCoach consumer applications. The API powers the official miCoach Train and Run app and has been used to integrate third-party apps like MyFitnessPal with the miCoach Platform.



The highly anticipated Apple Watch is geared for the fitness/quantified self market. Image credit: Apple

While Apple hasn't officially entered the wearable electronics market yet, the company will soon; the highly anticipated Apple Watch is expected to launch this April and will feature a variety of built-in apps, including maps, music, weather, Siri and two fitness apps (Activity and Workout). While the Apple Watch includes many types of apps, Apple's upcoming wearable electronics product seems to be geared for the fitness and quantified self markets. The Activity app measures daily physical activity, including walking, standing, exercising, calories burned; the watch essentially tracks every move the wearer makes. The Workout app allows wearers to set workout goals, provides progress updates and displays a workout summary. The watch also displays real-time statistics such as time, distance, calories, pace and speed for activities such as running, walking and cycling.

Last November, Apple announced the availability of WatchKit, a set of tools and resources that allow developers to extend their iPhone apps to Apple Watch, build brand-new Apple Watch apps, and create actionable notifications and glances (timely read-only information). In June 2014, Apple released iOS 8 SDK, which includes more than 4,000 new APIs, such as HealthKit, HomeKit, Touch ID, Camera, PhotoKit, CloudKit and Metal. The HealthKit APIs make it possible for third-party health and fitness apps to share data with Apple's new Health app and vice versa.

Be sure to read the next Wearable article: Microsoft Offering Preview SDK for Its Band Wearable