Wearable fitness trackers are in survival-of-the-fittest mode.
Touted as the next big thing in technology, wearable tech has spawned a dizzying array of Internet-connected wristwatches and head-mounted devices. Leading the fledgling industry are fitness gadgets that count steps taken, calories burned and other measurements of activity.
But in racing to meet the hype, many companies may have outpaced demand and rushed out products too soon.
Nike said it plans to lay off a small number of employees who work on its line of FuelBand fitness accessories to “align resources with business priorities,” signaling that the sporting equipment giant is scaling back its wearable hardware efforts.
Its move comes as Fitbit Inc., one of the most popular wearable tech companies, faces a lawsuit that threatens to damage its reputation and financial stability. Fitbit’s Force fitness tracker, worn on the wrist, was pulled from shelves and voluntarily recalled this year after wearers complained of rashes and blisters.
After a strong year in 2013, worldwide shipments of wearable tech will exceed 19 million units this year, more than tripling last year’s sales, according to market research firm IDC. It projected that the global market would surge to 111.9 million units in 2018, with more functional and stylish lifestyle accessories getting added to the mix of products.
Fitness-related accessories are expected to lead the industry through 2018 because of their ease of use and low prices, IDC said. Wristbands are the most popular for tracking activity, according to Stifel Nicolaus.