Expect an avalanche of fitness gadgets in 2014

Magellan Echo smart sports watches can sync with mobile devices to make the most out of the user’s sports apps. It was featured at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week.

If the recent International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is any indication, a new wave of fitness technology is on its way.

The Associated Press reported that “wearable computing devices” — from watches and wristbands to eyeglasses — are igniting “an explosion of hope and creativity that’s engaged both startups and big companies.” Among market targets is the fitness community.

The Consumer Electronics Association says that last year, 13 percent of U.S. consumers said they intended to buy a wearable fitness product within the next 12 months. That’s up 3 percent from 2012.

I read several of the stories coming out of Las Vegas and couldn’t believe the avalanche of fitness gadgets coming down from on high.

Despite being a bit of Luddite by modern standards, I personally know that GPS watches have made a big difference in my running life, yet still provide me with occasionally technological hair-pulling. (At least they don’t involve the bane of my tech existence: passwords!)

I’m on my third Garmin Forerunner in seven years, going from a clunky Forerunner 205, to a Forerunner 410 with touch-sensitive bezel and finally the “simplified” Forerunner 10.

Each one has its downfalls, including losing charging capacity, but surprising to me, my current 10 is my least favorite. It doesn’t show a run’s time, pace and mileage on one screen, I have to hit a button on the side of the watch. Plus, I can only charge it via hooking it up to my computer. Ugh.

Increasingly the technology is moving toward syncing with smart phones, which I will never use. I absolutely refuse to carry my phone on a run.

The Magellan Echo smart sports watches syncs with mobile devices to make the most out of the user’s sports applications, including music, by viewing and controlling them while the phone is tucked away. The Echo streams data and controls from your smart phone to your wrist. At a glance, you can see distance, pace, and heart rate from apps in real time.

Among the “wearables” are fitness bands for the wrist, which perform much of their motion tracking via smart phones, which already contain the motion sensors that let the fitness bands act as advanced pedometers.

Popular ones to date have included FitBit, Jawbone and Nike FuelBand.

The new year promises a dizzying array of FitBit-type fitness bands, which count steps, have heart sensors, measure your sleep and motivational companion apps to motivate you and tell you how well you’re doing.

Those include the Sony SmartBand, a sensor-packed band that has no display and interacts wirelessly with an Android smartphone or tablet through an app called Lifelog. It keeps a daily record of activities and recommends actions for the future.

SmartBand also informs its wearer of incoming calls and messages by vibrating. Users listening to music can use it to play, pause or skip tracks.

Similarly, LG’s Lifeband Touch also offers a constant link to your phone including messaging notifications like incoming calls and texts. Plus, it links with headphones that monitor your heart rate through your ears.

“So it’ll not only play your music, you can also take phone calls and monitor your heart rate at the same time,” LG’s Tim Alessi told AP.

Meanwhile, the BASIS band will be able to track perspiration and skin temperature, according to Tejash Unadkat of BASIS Science.

And Fitbug Orb activity trackers, which you can place virtually anywhere on your body, has introduced KiK Plans. It is the first ever customized exercise and diet programs that work to provide the guidance needed to reach health and fitness goals for important occasions.

Amy Minkel, co-owner of Fleet Feet Sports Mount Pleasant, says people are looking for fitness bands and that over the holidays they had inquiries about the Nike FuelBand. Unfortunately, the store couldn’t carry it because of the contract between Nike and Apple.

She adds national Fleet Feet representatives are working to find a fitness band appropriate for the general population that shops at one of its more than 100 franchises nationwide.

Minkel says the key to any fitness product for beginners is simplicity.

“We cater to a lot of beginners. They like technology, but they want it to be super simple,” she says.

Minkel says other considerations are accessories — people don’t want a lot of special cords to keep track of — and how long a device holds a charge.

“I don’t think folks are looking for the latest and greatest in fitness gadgets like they do phones and computers. They prefer to stick with what works.”

Reach David Quick at 937-5516 or dquick@postandcourier.com.