Fitness Activity Trackers-A Brief History

Fitness trackers already seem to have been with us forever, but when did it start? How did we get to the present? And what is in the near future?.

In the Beginning

Of course as most of the measures that we use to monitor our fitness/wellbeing are based around time, pressure or volume, we need to take our search for the fitness activity tracker back to the beginning of the development of wearable timepieces. So this takes us as far back as the 16th century and the ‘Nuremberg Egg.’ This was a time piece that was worn around the neck, and in a trend that remains today with anything ‘New’ or ‘groundbreaking.’ They became something of a status symbol.

And that’s the way things stayed until ‘the next big trend’ as in the early 19th century the pocket watch rolled into town. It was in this period that the wrist watch began to appear. Initially as a much smaller watch face held to the wrists of the ladies of the time by a slim strip of (usually) leather. These were deemed ridiculous contraptions by the gentry of the time but at the beginning of the first world war it became a requirement that all officers needed to synchronize time ‘on the fly’ and so the wrist watch finally became seen as an essential piece of kit, and after the war many a successful career was built on the positive first impression of ‘punctuality’ that the wearing of a watch provided.

As is often the case, the next development was born through dubious desire in mind, rather than the furtherment of mankind. The first wearable computer was born in the 1960’s Edward Thorp, and Claude Shannon developed a device that would fit into a shoe in order to gain an unfair advantage at the roulette table.

From that point forward the innovation and trend both expanded and grew momentum, and therefore accelerated.

1975 saw the first calculator watch, ’79 the Sony Walkman. And then the digital explosion truly got underway in the 1980’s after the introduction of the Digital Hearing Aid.

The possibilities for wearable technology really began to open from there and 2002 saw the introduction of the Bluetooth Headset which began the popularity explosion that despite the ‘naysayers’ continues to drive the industry to this day. Between 2006 and 2013, distinct brands were established; FitBit, Nike+ and Google Glass to name but a few. Then in late Apple announced that 2014 would be ‘The Year of Wearable Tech,’ as part of his release of the iconic iwatch. And the popularity explosion that followed has seen the introduction of evermore complex and targeted fitness measurement, from the tracking of seizures to sun-light exposure.

A Near Death

You can go as far back as 1850 when the Watchmakers Guild of the time refused to sanction their members making wrist watches, declaring the idea as ‘ridiculous.’ The idea of wearable technology has suffered many near death declarations since. The last that springs to mind is the business-wide media declaration that ‘wearable technology is an unnecessary and dying luxury’ back in 2011. Coincidentally directly after the unfortunate death of one of the industry’s main protagonists, the late great Steve Jobs. The rational this time was that there seemed little point in wearing even a regular time-piece had become defunct because of the advent of the mobile phone. Less than 6 months after this it became blatantly obvious to everyone that the two technologies were indeed complimentary to each other, and so the trend continues to grow.


“Wearables will become the world’s best-selling consumer electronics product after smartphones,” according to many sources including market research giants Euromonitor.

Although the market is currently divided into two distinct sections; Automated (devices that are capable of running third-party applications, and include connectivity capabilities, and Passive or Basic Wearables (devices that can only measure and record bio metric data).Combined sales forecasts predict sales of over 305 million units by 2020, this would make them the second most purchased personal technology, ahead of laptop and behind only the mobile phone.

In the middle of 2015, International Data Corporation estimated a 173 percent increase in wearable devices for 2015 from 2014. Basic wearables represent much of the expected short-term growth, with smart wearables providing more long-term growth. “The demand for basic wearables, those that do not run third party apps, has been absolutely astounding,” said Jitesh Ubrani, IDC’s senior research analyst. “Vendors like Fitbit and Xiaomi have helped propel the market with their sub-$100 bands, and IDC expects this momentum will continue.”

The split nature of this field with Basic wearables providing the bulk of short-term growth and Automated technology providing strong and growing long-term growth, makes this a considerably confusing market to shop in.

Going Forward

Fitness Activity Tracker technology has already outgrown the niche, or trend threshold of only owning something for kudos or bragging rights purposes, and is truly moving into the essential ‘must-have’ item right here and right now.

The technology is moving so fast that the ‘icon’ manufacturers are now always in a state of catch-up as development and innovation has moved on to the smaller, more dynamic companies out there. This along with the fact that not one unit is capable (yet) of fully meeting all the needs of any client can make this sector a very puzzling place within which to make an educated purchase decision as every purchase will for the foreseeable future always represent a compromise of some description on the part of the purchaser.

Over time, we intend to approach that conundrum and bring our expertise to the fore, by testing, reviewing and even comparing a huge range of units currently on the market and giving our honest opinion. We will approach this task by providing information regarding suitability, build quality, software and hardware reliability and accuracy and finally, and possibly the most important given the huge range of prices from extreme budget to extreme cost, we will provide a consideration of ‘Bang for Buck’.

We hope that you will stick with us, read our articles, and ultimately we hope that you will find us an indispensable source of information regarding any further purchases that you may consider.


4 Replies to “Fitness Activity Trackers-A Brief History”

  1. Hi Adrian, thank you for sharing a very interesting history of wearable technology. I enjoyed reading it and learnt some new things.

    I have always said as technology progresses we will end up with a small wearable device which will include a computer and everything else you can think of and more!

    I believe that time is closer than we can imagine!

    I want to buy a fitness tracker, what would you recommend?

    1. Thanks for the feedback Moni.
      The choice of what to buy really is as endless as it is personal. If you could mail me giving me a rough outline of what you get up to now, and how you plan to develop your fitness and in what direction. Then I may be able to make some suggestions for you and point you in the right general direction.


  2. I really enjoyed reading about the history of wearable tech! Never really gave it a thought, but the current activity trackers and sport watches are just a natural continuum to watches.

    I just bought a Fitbit Charge 3 yesterday. It’s the third fitbit I have bought and really like their simple design and set and forget functionality. This one includes oximetry sensor and the wearable industry is definitely taking a leap to producing actual life saving medical data.

    I reckon in a couple decades we will have wearables (or implants of some sort) that directly read our blood sugar and other chemical levels and project data straight to our retinas and all crazy stuff we can’t even imagine.

    It’s pretty exciting to live in times when science fiction isn’t fiction anymore. just look at the modern smart phones! No one in the eighties would have guessed what everyone would be carrying in their pocket these days.

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