Wearable Sensors Gather Data — Now To Make It Useful

It's not just about how many steps you've taken or how many calories you've burned in a day. Wearable fitness trackers and health monitors are becoming more commonplace and diverse, but just what do you do with all of that data?

"We have a lot of people buy wearables and then stop using them," said Paul Landau, president of Fitbug, a British maker of fitness trackers. Landau attended the International CES gadget show in Las Vegas last week, promoting a series of 12-week fitness coaching programs that offer detailed and custom recommendations for getting in shape. "If you want to help people," said Landau, "they've got to have more than just self-tracking."

Health monitors aren't just for fitness buffs. Startups and big tech companies at the gadget show promoted all kinds of uses for the data generated by wearable sensors -- from mindfulness exercises to figuring out the best time to get pregnant. Other companies aim to offer value by aggregating data from different sources, so it can be viewed and interpreted together. That could be useful, but it also raises a host of privacy concerns.

Turning Data Into an Experience

"A lot of wearables today are just throwing numbers at people. We're looking to synthesize that data and turn it into an experience," says Jason Fass of Zepp Labs, a Silicon Valley startup that makes a tiny, wearable motion sensor for tennis, baseball and golf enthusiasts.

Zepp has been selling sensors for a year, Fass said in an interview at CES, but he's hoping weekend athletes will see more value in Zepp's new smartphone app. It shows users an animated analysis of their swing, and lets them compare their moves with videos of pro athletes.

The trend goes beyond sports. A Canadian startup called InteraXon displayed a headset that can measure brain activity, by tracking...

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