Garmin Grabs Lead in the Innovation Wave of Waterproof Wearables

Garmin Grabs Lead in the Innovation Wave of Waterproof Wearables

The New Wave of Waterproof Wearables. Strong offshore winds of innovation are generating a large inbound tubing wave of waterproof wearables and waterproof fitness trackers — just not at Mavericks beach, people.

The lineup of companies and products surfing this waterproof wave of innovation are the AquaPulse, Swimsense, and Neptune2 products from the Bulgarian Finis company, the Swimovate PoolMate HR from the UK, the Misfit Shine from Burlingame, California, the San Francisco based FlyFit, the Finland based Suunto Ambit3 family of sports watches, the Beirut and San Francisco based startup Instabeat, the Mountain View, California based Moov, the Intel owned Basis Peak company based in San Francisco, the Vancouver, British Columbia based Mio Alpha2, and the Polar Loop 2 from Lake Success, New York.

All of these companies have developed a varied pool of wearable fitness and activity trackers and wearable sports watches that, in general, offer a minimum of 2 to 3 atmospheres (ATM) up to a max of 5 ATM of waterproof wearability. This means that you can confidently use these waterproof wearables to water depths ranging from 20 to 30 meters for the 2 to 3 ATM devices down to 50 meters for the 5 ATM devices.

Right now, though, one company has emerged as the quite visible leader of the new pack of waterproof wearables. Garmin, the global manufacturer of GPS and smart electronics oriented marine, aviation, sport, and consumer products headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, has assumed the undisputed leadership position in the waterproof wearables industry.

Garmin Grabs the Lead in Waterproof Wearables. With 20/20 hindsight, it was inevitable that the entire wearables industry of hardware and software designers and engineers would underestimate the importance of waterproof electronics to multiple application market segments and huge swaths of consumers. The parallel needs to develop the miniaturization of wireless, smart accelerometer and gyro and heart rate sensor technologies, IT hardware and software packaging, the integration of social communications technologies, and the development of consumer responsive community app ecosystems and fitness community data sharing systems and dashboards that confronted all smart wearables companies was surely a big enough hurdle to overcome in the first place. Waterproofing was likely one of the last requirements on the prioritized product specifications roadmap for these sports watches, activity trackers, and bands.

However, Garmin has a long and storied history of waterproof marine electronics. So it should be no surprise that, if focused on the emerging growth attraction of the global wearables marketplace, Garmin would bring to bear the full force of its competitive advantage in waterproof technologies, and product design and packaging expertise of GPS and smart sensor electronics.

This is exactly the situation the entire wearables industry finds itself in today. Of course, it’s true that Garmin is currently coming from behind, with much smaller market share than say FitBit, Apple, and Xiaomi. Yet Garmin is methodically breathing down the neck of their wearables competitors like a waterproof market share shark roaming the breadth and depth of multiple consumer applications and market segments.

Garmin is using its 25 years of premier waterproof electronics technology expertise to carpe diem the entire wearables industry.  FitBit, Apple, Xiaomi, Samsung, and a host of others need to pay attention in a big way.

The Garmin Forerunner 235 Waterproof Sports watch. Garmin’s Elevate™ heart rate technology enabled Forerunner 235 sports watch gives users the option to track heart rate biometrics 24/7 during runs and other activities without a chest strap. The Forerunner 235 integrates both GPS and GLONASS positioning systems. It tracks distance, pace, and time for running activities and adds VO2 max tracking for aerobics activities. All of this is shown on a 215 W x 180 H pixel display. VO2 max is the relatively newly adopted performance unit that measures the maximum volume of oxygen a person engaged in exercise or athletics can use, as measured in milliliters per kilogram of body weight per minute (ml/kg/min).

The Forerunner 235 tracker counts steps and calories all day and comes with audio prompt and smart notifications technology. It sports a lithium-ion battery that’s good for 9+/- days of performance as a watch, activity tracker, social communications notification devices, and heart rate monitor or 11 hours of active training.

Forerunner 235 users can set up individualized and socially shared training programs by downloading advanced workouts and training plans to their sports watch from Garmin Connect. This free user community ecosystem of apps, dashboards, custom data fields, custom watch faces and data widgets, and shareable data and activity comparisons is available at https://apps.garmin.com/en-US/

Garmin Vivoactive HR and Garmin Swim. The Vivoactive HR is Garmin’s upgrade successor to its wrist-based, heart rate sensing Vivosmart HR, but with a larger display and biometric smarts, communications (texts, calls, emails), calendar, social notifications, and an app community ecosystem at least equal to the FitBit Charge HR. The Vivoactive HR enables activity monitoring including counting steps, floors climbed, workout intensity, calories consumed, GPS precision speed and distance data, sleep monitoring. It sports an embedded suite of apps for running, golfing, cycling, swimming, snowboarding, paddle-boarding, and even offers music player controls for connected music devices. By connecting to Garmin Connect, users can access a user community and app ecosystem with personal dashboards linked to these activities.

One major difference with the FitBit Charge HR is Garmin’s vastly superior 5 ATM waterproofing for the Vivoactive HR, which could be a key sustainable competitive differentiator for Garmin’s wearables for the foreseeable future. FitBit specs the Charge as ‘water resistant’ and does not offer a waterproof or water resistance spec for the Chrge HR. The Vivoactive HR is widely available for $249.99 at places such as Best Buy, Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Garmin’s Swim device, also 5 ATM waterproof, while not strictly a fitness tracker, is for fitness minded and performance target oriented swimmers who want to use the best 5 ATM waterproof stroke detection (freestyle, butterfly, etc.), times, stroke counting, lap and intervals tracking, distance detection, drill logging, calories burned, and swim workout analysis and sharing wearable on the market, complete with wireless data upload capability. The Garmin Swim costs $149.99 at www.garmin.com or check for the latest price at Amazon.com.

A Healthy Smart Scale Combo – Like Yogurt and Bananas. Just like a healthy combo of yogurt and bananas, Garmin now offers a WiFi and Garmin Connect enabled, smart weight scale. The Garmin Forerunner 235 and the Garmin IndexTM Smart Scale are quite likely to be even healthier for you than yogurt and bananas.

The Index Smart Scale measures, uploads to Garmin Connect via your home WiFi system to enable tracking, goal setting, and sharing of weight, body mass index (BMI), body fat %, muscle mass %, bone mass %, and water mass %. It recognizes up to 16 different Garmin Connect users, so unless you’re one of the 17 children living in the Duggar family home, your home will only need one of these smart scales.

The Garmin Index Smart Scale sports a physical footprint a little over one square foot, offers up to 9 months of battery life based on 4 AA batteries, and uses 2.4GHz 802.11 b/g/n wireless to connect to Garmin Connect where your wearables and your smartphones and tablets can connect to view and manipulate your body measurement details with the app offered by Garmin’s app partner, MyFitnessPal. The Garmin Index Smart Scale retails for $129.99 and it has even weighed itself at around 6.2 pounds, with zero body fat, and all electronic muscle.

With a great combination of a Garmin wearable and the Garmin Index Smart Scale, you can offset even the most prodigious helpings of yogurt and bananas to set yourself up to reach your personal weight and fitness goals.

For Comparison’s Sake. Let’s address some substantive differences between the top two smart scales, Garmin’s Index Smart Scale and FitBit’s Aria, both of which offer many of the exact same features. The Garmin Index Smart Scale can weigh up to 400 lbs. and up to 16 different users. The Aria only weighs up to 350 lbs. and limits the scale to 8 users.

Neither scale is 5 ATM waterproof. Considering the humid and wet bathroom is where most homeowners keep their weight scale, adding higher levels of waterproofing to this relatively new class of smart device would be a keen idea for future product generations.

The major drawback to the Garmin smart scale is that it integrates with only one fitness and health tracking app partner, My FitnessPal while FitBit’s Aria smart scale offers 32 different apps for your personal data to tie into on the Web. Considering the popularity of the many different apps in the fitness and health apps ecosystem, this also should be a priority area for Garmin to aggressively improve to keep pace with FitBit.


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