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Shoemaker New Balance takes a leap with the launch of the data-enhanced fitness watch

Data driven fitness watch by New Balance

With athletes relying more on data to improve performance, the Boston-based shoemaker New Balance is taking a leap with its upcoming introduction of a smart watch called RunIQ, which it introduced last week at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week, the Boston Globe reports.

Powered by Intel with software from Alphabet Inc, parent company of Google, New Balance executive vice president Chris Ladd said the RunIQ, which goes on sale in February, is just the first in an upcoming family of digital products to help elite athletes record and analyze every aspect of their workouts.

“Athletes are really using data now to improve performance,” said Ladd in the article. “In order to be an innovative company for athletes, we realized we need technology-driven solutions.”

Further, New Balance teamed up with Danish headphone maker Jabra to create a wireless Bluetooth headphone.

Ramon Llamas, a wearables analyst at the research company IDC Corp, said New Balance is betting elite athletes and amateur wannabes will pay top dollar for an advanced sports smartwatch, the article states. “They’re not so much going after tech fans but more so the fitness enthusiasts who are comfortable with technology,” said Llamas. He thinks that’s a sizable market and predicts New Balance will land a goodly share of it. “Are we talking about millions of units? Probably not,” he said. “But I could see something in the thousands or maybe the tens of thousands.”

Market leader Fitbit of San Francisco makes slim wrist bands that are priced from $60 to $250 and can track a runner’s speed, distance, and heart rate. Fitbit has 23% of the global market, according to IDC. Tech giant Samsung is heavily marketing its latest version of Gear Fit 2, a $130 device with similar capabilities. Fitbit has also added new innovators in its recent acquisition of Vector Watch.

Meanwhile, the higher end of the wearables market hasn’t taken off, the Globe says. Apple and Google had gambled that the next big thing in consumer tech gadgetry would be the smartwatch — a wrist-mounted, touchscreen-controlled computer for the wrist, stuffed with many of the same features found on smartphones — and priced their products in the same league as the New Balance RunIQ, $300 and up, the article notes.

But the Apple Watch accounted for less than five per cent of the global market for wearable devices, and the tech giant reported selling 1.1m watches in the third quarter of 2016, the Globe reports.

“We looked at the marketplace,” said Ladd, “and realized there’s a huge hole.”

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