First, there is the swirl of hype. Wearable devices, most of which offer at their core some form of activity-tracking for the people wearing them, are flooding the market, even though a lot of people do not understand their value and there is evidence that a meaningful number of users simply stop wearing them over time.
Then there is the seemingly mixed results of Nike, Adidas’s big rival in the sportswear market, in the wearables business. In April, Nike confirmed that it was laying off some members of the team that develops its FuelBand fitness tracking bracelet, though the company denied an earlier report that it planned to discontinue the product. For the second half of last year, Nike was in third place in the market for basic wearable bands, according to estimates by Canalys, a technology research company.
Then there is the expected arrival of a smartwatch from Apple with health-tracking capabilities later this year. That release could significantly raise the bar on what people expect from wearables, especially if Apple comes anywhere close to recreating the impact it had on MP3 players and smartphones.
Finally, there is the question of whether Adidas, no matter how good it is at making shoes, has the technological chops to build wearables when companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft and a fleet of start-ups are slurping up engineers for their own efforts.
Photo The Adidas Fit Smart fitness tracker.Credit Paul Gaudio, the general manager of digital sports at Adidas, is aware of the tumult in the wearables market, but he does not seem daunted. On Wednesday, Mr. Gaudio is introducing the company’s Fit Smart fitness tracker at a wearables conference in San Francisco.
The $199 wristband, which will go on sale in mid-August at Best Buy, packs most of the same features as other wearables, including the ability to track distance traveled, pace and calorie-burning. It also measures heart rate, which Mr. Gaudio said was critical to its goal of providing training programs for people as they shoot for their fitness goals.
“The real core idea behind it was to put a personal fitness coach on everybody’s wrist,” he said in a phone interview. “That’s different from what’s going on in the market.”
Heart rate monitoring tells the wristband how a runner’s body is responding on a run — giving an indication, for instance, of overexertion, which can lead to fatigue and burnout. The wristband can coach a runner to pick up or bring down the pace with LED lights and vibrations.
Workout data from the device can be transferred wirelessly to Adidas’s miCoach Train and Run app for smartphones. Users will set up their training programs through the app.
The benefit of Adidas’s heart rate monitor will depend largely on its accuracy, which cannot be determined until the product is available for testing. While training with a heart rate monitor strapped across the chest has long been popular with long-distance runners, evaluations have shown problems with many wrist-based monitors.
Mr. Gaudio said Adidas’s background in sports gives it a point of view that will help it in the wearables market. “When people set out to get fit, they really don’t know what to do,” Mr. Gaudio said. “They get hurt, get frustrated and quit. This is about helping people get better.”