Wearable Devices Getting More Niche

Wearable devices have always been a niche accessory, appealing to the techy and fitness-conscious set. Now as the sector takes off, consumers can expect a wave of even more specific fitness trackers as new competitors try to grab a piece of the market.

Taiwanese startup Flyfit’s ankle band fitness tracker caters to cyclers.

Unlike more general fitness trackers like the Nike FuelBand or Fitbit, quite a few of this year’s devices tend to target an ultra-specific type of user, such as a cycler, weight lifter or someone who slouches.

An example is Flyfit, an ankle band being developed by Taiwanese engineer Jimmy Leu.

Mr. Leu said he knew there were plenty of watch-like fitness trackers out there, but his wife found that they couldn’t track her cycling workouts very accurately. So, he quit his job last March and began developing an ankle band alternative. The project is currently fundraising on Kickstarter.

Like other trackers, Flyfit uses a smartphone app to track exercise and daily activities, but Mr. Leu says it does a better job at tracking leg-based activities like biking.

Another such device is PUSH, a tracker made for weight lifters. The device, which is being made by Toronto-based startup PUSH Design Solutions, measures force, velocity and power while weight lifting to help athletes fine-tune their workout.

Athletes aren’t the only target niche. Another wearable device in the works is Lumo Lift from Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup Lumo BodyTech, a device that clips to a user’s shirt and helps improve posture. When the device senses that the user is slouching, it gives a light vibration.

All three devices are expected to begin shipping later this year.

The wearable devices sector is gaining critical mass in both sales and visibility. In a recent study by NPD Group, 52% of consumers said they had heard of wearable devices such as smart glasses, smart watches or fitness trackers. One third said they were likely to buy one.

Digital fitness trackers are the most well-known type of wearable device, according to NPD, and have grown into a $330 million industry worldwide.

“The (fitness tracker) market is now large enough to accommodate a variety of products aimed at all levels of athlete – from serious performance-minded consumers to hobbyists – a sure sign of maturity,” said NPD Group industry analyst Ben Arnold in a release.

For entrepreneurs like Mr. Leu, even a small slice of this growing market is a promising business opportunity.

“I am targeting cyclists, as well as swimmers,” Mr. Leu said. “Some of their needs cannot be fulfilled by the current devices. The bicycle market is very large in Europe and about half of our supporters are there.”