5 Wearable Tech Trend Predictions for 2021

February 4, 2021 - 7 minutes read

medical app developerThe new year is when millions of us set goals for the upcoming months, and many of us wish to work on improving our health and fitness. Wearables have rapidly ascended to become the top choice of fitness devices in the past two years, and medical tech developers like Fitbit, Samsung, and Apple are manufacturing the most popular devices.

But there’s more in store for 2021, namely all kinds of interesting new technologies being added to the hardware and software of wearables devices. Here’s what features and devices we’re looking forward to seeing launch this upcoming year.

1. SpO2 Monitoring

Because of the pandemic, the SpO2 sensor has become one of the in-demand features of any smartwatch. Almost every new smartwatch that shipped in 2020 had a SpO2 sensor. But the efficacy of the data has repeatedly come into question by medical professionals, device wearers, and the companies themselves.

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Watches with SpO2 sensors often come with a disclaimer that the sensor is only for fitness and wellness. In other words, these sensors don’t offer medical advice, although you can monitor your SpO2 levels to figure out if a doctor’s appointment is warranted. One issue that the SpO2 sensors can alert a user to is the possibility of sleep apnea. However, some wearables don’t use the SpO2 sensor automatically, making it a nearly useless feature.

In 2021, SpO2 data is expected to start being utilized more deeply, especially for health monitoring, early COVID-19 detection, and other respiratory illnesses. In fact, San Francisco-based Fitbit recently released a study that links data from devices’ SpO2 sensors to early signs of respiratory infection, including COVID-19.

2. Sleep Tracking

Sleep tracking has been a major hit for all wearables devices. In Apple Watch devices, sleep tracking involved downloading a third-party app. In watchOS 7, the major added feature was native sleep tracking, which more closely aligns the wearable with Fitbit’s offering.

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With the new sleep tracking feature, Apple Watch users can check sleep consistency, set sleep schedules, and focus on time spent asleep and awake in bed. Since the feature just launched, the visualizations are lacking compared to Fitbit and Garmin. Although it’s not known what improvements watchOS 8 will bring, experts are certain that watchOS 8 will be released sometime this year.

One thing is for sure: Apple is going to put its own spin on sleep tracking, whether that means a sleep ring, goals for sleep consistency, or more cognizant sleep schedule tracking. These small changes can help users prioritize sleep as an aspect of health and fitness, rather than viewing sleep as a necessity that doesn’t need any optimization.

3. Body Temperature Tracking

Body temperature is a difficult vital to measure, but Fitbit managed to accomplish it. Temperature tracking will remain important in 2021 since it’s an early COVID-19 symptom, so the other wearables manufacturers are expected to follow suit this year. Changes in basal temperature hold a lot of value: they can indicate the start of menstruation, signs of illness, or the beginning of a fever.

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Huami’s Amazfit GTR 2e and GTS 2e watches have temperature tracking already, leaving Apple and Samsung behind in offering this feature. This is one feature that users will never ignore, empowering them to get help earlier than they normally would.

4. Your Personal Trainer In a Watch

One of the most utilized features in smartwatches is exercising tracking. The sports watch manufacturers, like Polar and Garmin, work for swimming, bike riding, running, and indoor workouts. With the amount of data collected during each workout, making that data accessible and actionable is the next step for wearables in 2021.

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Garmin and Polar are also monitoring sleep and heart rate, tying daily activity levels to other aspects of health and wellness. In addition to Garmin’s acquisition of heart analytics company Firstbeat, Polar’s FitSpark feature dives deep into looking at training data to give insights about how to train moving forward as well as give recommendations about what trainings to incorporate into your next workout.

The notion that a smartwatch can be a digital personal trainer has been an ultimate goal of wearables developers, and we’re inching closer to it every day.

5. ECG and Blood Pressure

Apple led the way when it introduced ECG examining in its Apple Watches. To remain competitive, Samsung also added ECG sensors to its Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 and Galaxy Watch 3. One of the hurdles these companies had to overcome is regulatory approval. Additionally, this feature is incredibly complex, so development time is extended for the company. ECG support has been approved in South Korea and the U.S., but other countries are expected to grant approval in 2021 as well.

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Blood pressure support is still a unique selling point for smartwatches, and Samsung is leading the way. The company approaches blood pressure monitoring by inserting a dedicated blood pressure monitor that requires some calibration before use. This feature has only been approved in South Korea, but as demand for this feature grows from Samsung users around the world, we expect that more countries will approve blood pressure monitoring in 2021.

The Year of Wearables

Wearables are staying strong in market presence and user engagement. As more people purchase smartwatches in 2021, we expect wearables manufacturers to add more features to stay competitive with each other. This may be the year that wearables go from being nice-to-have devices to becoming need-to-have tools for your health and fitness tracking.

Do you have a wearable that you use for fitness and health monitoring? Do you think the current features are enough or do you want to see more measurements on your wrist in 2021?

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