How the Sony SmartBand Works

A Sony employee holds a Sony Xperia Z3 and a Sony SmartBand Talk during the IFA Electronics show in Berlin  in 2014.
A Sony employee holds a Sony Xperia Z3 and a Sony SmartBand Talk during the IFA Electronics show in Berlin in 2014.

Notice a lot more people sporting what appear to be those rubbery, multi-hued "awareness" bracelets, a la the once-omnipresent yellow Livestrong bands? It's not awareness wristbands you're likely seeing, but fitness trackers. These monitors are aimed at measuring your physical efforts (like walking, running and calorie consumption) so you can better keep tabs on your health.

The first such health-tracking device was the heart-rate monitor, which debuted in stores in 1978 [source Polar]. It wasn't until 2013, though, that fitness bands were launched. A 2015 study showed that 10 percent of Americans owned one.

These slim, sometimes chic devices are usually designed to be worn on the wrist, but some can be clipped to your clothing or even tossed in your pocket. Basically, the band or tracker is supposed to be so light that you don't know you've got the thing on. With the tracker on your body day and night, it constantly measures your activities, then syncs the info to your computer or smartphone — often wirelessly — for long-term tracking.

Although research firm IHS Technology predicts the global market revenue for sports, fitness and activity trackers will soar 46 percent from 2013 through 2019, others are already writing the obituary for these monitors. Jason Jacobs, founder and CEO of fitness app RunKeeper, says people only want to carry around one object. So, multifunctional devices such as smartphones and smart watches will include fitness monitoring, thereby negating the need for a separate device. This is similar to how smartphones replaced cameras, video recorders and portable music players by including these functions in the typical smartphone [sources: Jacobs, Walker].

It's certainly possible fitness trackers have hit their zenith in popularity. And that may be what Sony is banking on. Or hedging against. Sony has both the SmartBand SWR10 and the SmartBand Talk SWR30 on the market, the latter of which rises above being simply a fitness tracker by incorporating some smart-watch features. While neither device has gotten total rave reviews from consumers and critics, many people are fans. Let's learn more about Sony's SmartBands.