Market Insight

Body composition – the next new feature of activity monitors

September 12, 2016

Roeen Roashan Roeen Roashan Senior Analyst, Healthcare Technology
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At IFA 2016, TomTom released a number of new wearable devices for sports and fitness purposes - most notably the TomTom touch, which features body composition analysis. There is high demand for measuring body composition because it provides an idea of fat free mass, a metric of high importance in the fitness and dietetics industry. TomTom is among the first to add such a feature to a wrist-worn device. The underlying technology is bioelectrical impedance analysis, which is used in other body composition analyzers as well, either scales or handheld devices. Bioelectrical impedance analysis measures the amount of time a signal travels through the body, and uses this process to estimate body composition. Compared to other methods of measuring body composition e.g. dual energy x-ray absorptiometry, which is the most accurate method, bioelectrical impedance provides a quick alternative. The convenience does come at a cost, as the measurements can be highly inaccurate due to a number of variables, such as gender bias, liquid consumption, food intake, skin temperature, what time of day the test is taken, and more.

Adding this feature is an attempt to expand the application of activity monitors, to ensure future growth. Unfortunately, its meaningful use is limited due to the high variance in test results. The lack of long-term meaningful use is generally not a concern for activity monitor OEMs, but it should be, as the sustainability of its core product depends on it. Catering to the medical community is part of meaningful use. Jawbone, among few others, has recognized this and is currently working on a medical activity monitor. That being said, the industry as a whole, is far behind in adopting meaningful medical uses of activity monitors.

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