Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 22
What's next with
Smart watches and apps
develop in Georgia and beyond
BY CAROLYN CRIST
n a sunny Saturday along the Atlanta BeltLine
network of trails, Georgians set out on a run, bike
ride or stroll with their families. For many of them,
it's become a habit to first put on a watch or bracelet
that tracks their steps and calories. This "wearable-technology" trend has shifted from die-hard fitness fans to
mainstream culture, as more people want to learn about
their personal trends and get healthy.
However, many Georgians may not realize that the
future of the technology is developing in their own
backyards. Companies such as AT&T and Samsung
are pairing with researchers at the Georgia Institute of
Technology and Georgia State University in Atlanta, and
a handful of "wearable" companies have established
headquarters in Georgia.
"Walk into any gym, YMCA or corporate wellness program, and all you see is technology now," says
Walt Thompson, a kinesiology and nutrition professor
at Georgia State University who specializes in health
trends research. "I work with several colleagues who
didn't think about exercise as part of their day, and now
they're walking up flights of stairs because they want to
get their steps counted. This purpose-driven technology
helps people to get out of their chairs and do something."
The most popular wristwatch models-the Fitbit
and the Apple Watch-are just one factor in the equation. Wearable-tech companies are creating bracelets,
necklaces and rings with sensor technology that allows
users to track their steps in an attractive, unobtrusive
way. There are also dozens of apps that connect to
these wearable devices that track calories, heart rate,
sleep and more.
"We live in the generation where technology is
becoming smaller and more powerful," Thompson says.
"We want more information about ourselves-and in the
smallest way possible."
Wearables take hold in Georgia
Wearables are the No. 1 fitness trend for the second
year in a row, according to a worldwide survey conducted by the American College of Sports Medicine in India22
napolis. The group suggests that the economic downturn
almost a decade ago prompted the fitness industry to
find less-expensive ways to boost fitness. The survey,
which pulled in thoughts from 1,800 respondents, ranks
wearable technology first, followed by body training
(using body weight for strength-training exercises) and
high-intensity interval training (bursts of high-intensity
exercise, followed by brief, low-intensity rest periods).
"We're about to send out our 2018 survey, and I
can't yet predict how well wearable technology" might
do, says Thompson, who wrote the 2017 report. "But my
guess is that it will be very popular once again."
The Apple Watch, for example, is projected to exceed 485 million devices by 2018, according to the
report. Smart glasses-wearable computer glasses that
allow users to see additional information-are predicted
to generate sales revenues totaling $1.5 billion in coming
years, and smart fabrics or interactive textiles-which
include digital components that can light up for safety or
record biodata-will reach $2.6 billion in sales this year.
"As long as the wearable-technology industry continues to reinvent itself, it'll remain at No. 1," Thompson
says. "Just like the changes occurring in car technology
every year, similar developments are happening in the
In Georgia and the South overall, fitness trends are
picking up steam as well. The 2017 American Fitness
Index, also produced by the American College of Sports
Medicine, ranks Atlanta/Sandy Springs/Roswell at No. 17
out of the 50 most-populated cities in the country. Minneapolis/St. Paul swapped places with Washington, D.C.,
for first, followed by San Francisco/Oakland and Seattle/
Tacoma as the most-fit cities. Nationally, smoking rates
and heart-disease rates are going down, while physical
activity and consumption of fruits and vegetables are
The index ranked Atlanta highly for having more
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