Wearable tech has skyrocketed in the last two years, but we are now witnessing a new explosion of activity in this space.

The worldwide wearable tech market has yet again performed beyond expectation, boasting 10.3% YOY growth in Q2 2017. The Fitbit has become a staple accessory adorning the wrists of millions of fitness-conscious users, determined to track their daily steps. Whilst the overall wearables market has been booming, annual growth for “basic” wearables such as the Fitbit has declined for the first time, by 0.9% (2016-17).

Consumers are shifting away from simple fitness trackers towards more intelligent and sophisticated devices, particularly those that support third party apps. In addition, previously niche features like GPS and health tracking have rapidly become standard embedded features in most wearable devices. In 2016, a quarter of wearables had embedded GPS functionality, but by 2017 this figure had risen to 41.7%.

In the outdoor sector there has been a surge in new, niche devices targeted at more hardcore sports and outdoor enthusiasts, from hikers to cyclists. The success factors driving these more specialised devices include accurate performance data capture, and intelligent, personalised technologies that equip users with live environmental updates. In the world of hiking, Suunto devices boast built-in topographic maps and smart weather alerts, whilst Aria Wearables provide shoe insoles that warm and cool the feet, whilst measuring steps, calories and distance. For swimmers, Xmetrics’ models are equipped with waterproof headphones that give real-time updates on performance and personalised coaching to improve stroke style.

Another development driving the growth of wearable technology is the social element associated with fitness tracking. Although not a device itself, Strava is a fitness tracking and social networking app that is the leader in the outdoor segment. Its relevance to an array of athletes including cyclists, hikers, and runners has contributed to its uptake by tens of millions of users worldwide.

Strava allows users to share their routes and performance – all tracked through a wearable – with friends and the wider Strava community across the globe. This fuels competition among users, who are motivated to get active in return for “Kudos”, Strava’s own Facebook “like” equivalent. The ultimate goal for the most avid users is to achieve the title “King of the Mountain”, reserved for those who complete routes in record-breaking time.

The growth in fitness-related social platforms like Strava, offering a competitive aspect to fitness tracking, combined with the trickling-down of more advanced monitoring and feedback technologies into mainstream devices, could see a new wave of growth in the wearables sector.

Holly Jackson