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Analyst: Health, fitness wireless ICs to post strong growth

04 Aug 2014

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A second use is for data uploading, with wireless connectivity employed to upload fitness and performance data to PCs, smartphones, tablets or online communities for analysis and sharing.

Among the various wireless technologies now available on the market for health and fitness, Bluetooth Smart is the most successful. As a low-power technology, Bluetooth Smart enables even the smallest wearable products such as foot pods, the size of one's thumbnail, to operate for years on a battery the size of a coin cell. Bluetooth Smart also leverages its enviable position in mobile phones and tablets: It is the only major low-power wireless technology able to communicate with all the chief mobile platforms including Apple iOs, Google Android, Microsoft Windows 8 and the BlackBerry operating system.

Moreover, the dongle-free connectivity of Bluetooth Smart gives it an edge over other rivals. No other technology features both low-power consumption as well as seamless connectivity, Ratliff said.

One wireless technology specifically designed for the health and fitness market and popular with heart-rate monitors, ANT/ANT+, is a low-power technology that, however, does not enjoy the same broad support in mobile platforms. A PC or dongle is also required for ANT/ANT+, unlike Bluetooth Smart. Still, ANT/ANT+ enjoys a significant market share and seems to have a defencible position, especially in products designed for serious fitness enthusiasts and in cycling electronics.

A big driver of growth in health and fitness devices is the desire among consumers to track and analyse personal data, in pursuit of what is known in industry circles as "the quantified self." Consumers can then share such data via social media and online communities, often via apps such as RunKeeper of Runtastic.

Other drivers for the market include the increased use of wearable devices; decreasing component costs; an ageing demographic concerned about preserving health; and the rising use of telehealth, or remote healthcare systems.

Shipments of consumer health and fitness devices with integrated wireless connectivity will grow to an estimated 75.7 million units in 2018, up from 23 million units in 2011.

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