Belfast Telegraph

Enterconf: Wearable technology has huge potential for future

By Jamie Stinson

One of the UK's leading figures in wearable technology spoke at EnterConf yesterday - just as the gadget firm Fitbit was valued at $4bn (£2.5bn) when it joined the New York Stock Exchange.

Fitbit is the first wearable technology business to go public - a huge step for a sector which has been joined by technology giants like Apple, Google and Microsoft.

Apple's iWatch, which hit stores this week, is the most well-known wearable device.

Fitbit, which launched in 2007, makes devices that can be worn on the wrist or clipped to clothing to monitor health and activity.

Andy Caddy, chief information officer at gym chain Virgin Active, said there was huge potential for the sector of wearable technology.

Health technology in the future will be able to tell the wearer of a gadget the nutritional value of their food, he said, and understand their physiology.

"It's a really early point in the market place. Putting a bracelet on someone's wrist that gets them off the sofa and gets them out and about is great."

The company, which has just one operation in the Province, in Holywood, is looking at how to use technology to help their members.

Mr Caddy said: "In our club in London, which launches next month, we give people a radio frequency identification (RFID) badge for entry, to operate their lockers, to pay for stuff like an Oyster (card used to pay fares on London's Tube network) does. It integrates with the equipment, which logs and tracks what you're doing. That's going to be interesting to see what the adoption of that's like.

"We hope to end the year with a great app, which tracks and logs, and sets goals and gives customers exercise plans and diet plans. But its a journey we're on."

Wearables are much more popular outside the UK, particularly in the USA. Only one in 10 of Virgin Active's British members wear a piece of technology, Mr Caddy said.

He said the example of South Africa gave glimpses into what the technology would hold in the future.

In South Africa, financial services firm Vitality uses wearables to assess their life insurance customers' health risk.

The big issue for companies is to make the technology "friction free", so it seamlessly fits people's everyday lives, Mr Caddy said.

"Look at points where mass adoption happens, such as satnav.

"Everybody has satnav in some shape or form and that's because it became so easy to do."

Fitbit was yesterday valued at more than $4bn (£2.5bn) as it listed on the New York Stock Exchange - illustrating the potential of the sector.

The firm, which makes wristbands tracking a user's daily steps and calories burned, has priced shares at a higher-than-expected $20 (£12.64) each, raising around $732m (£463m).

The company said it sold 10.9m devices last year to nearly triple its annual revenue to $745m (£471m).

Belfast Telegraph