FASHION / TECHNOLOGY

Polar’s CEO Sander Werring on the current state and future of smartwatches

”Where the innovation will happen is in the way devices interact without being told to do so,” the newly appointed executive says.
By JOHAN MAGNUSSON
January 11, 2022

Before being appointed CEO for the Finnish wearable sports technology manufacturer in June last year, Werring was responsible for the company’s global sales organization and has closely followed the huge rise in smartwatches.

— Mainly related to the pandemic we’ve all been going through, he says, there has been a considerable change in how we think about and take responsibility for our health and wellbeing. The industry has grown and attracted many new brands during recent years, but it all comes to that point what you get out of it. Data has a certain value. We need to make sure that we provide at least the same amount of data back to our customer — which we call ”actionable guidance” — in order to say that we are accurate to use for the mentioned main purpose, to help people to reach a better life.

And what’s the most important aspect for you as a brand in order to stay relevant?

— We brought the first heart rate monitor in 1977 and innovative physiological and sports medical research are the core of everything we do to help people stay more active every day. Our technology and proprietary features are based upon scientific work and are following recommendations from the world’s leading sports medicine authorities.

Which features are the most used and appreciated among customers?

— Just like for all humans, the heart is at the core, and the features that are based on heart rate are most used and appreciated among all. Listening to your heart helps you understand your body better, and heart rate tracking is the key also to finding the right balance between training load and recovery. One main focus area for us is the continuous measurement of the human body. We can, for example, measure how well you have recovered during the night, the sleep stages, and your heart rate variability through the night. Using that data, we can analyze your recovery and the state of your autonomic nervous system. Based on what we’ve measured from you, you get personalized daily tips for exercise, sleep, and regulating your energy levels, particularly those rough days. This is also connected to our daily training guide that offers ready-made daily on-demand workouts that match your recovery, fitness level, and training history, says Werring.

Polar Grit X Pro

If we look a few years ahead, what’d you say will be the major change compared to now in how the smartwatches look and work?

— If you look around yourself, think of all the products that are wirelessly connected and compare that to a few years back, the change is likely very noticeable. It is most likely the direction things will go even stronger during the upcoming years. Where the innovation will happen is in the way those devices interact without being told to do so. When you finish your running exercise and arrive home, the music playback will transfer from your ”hearables” to the speakers in your living room without interruption. A smart assistant might greet you and tell you how your exercise went and what’s on your schedule later during the day. Then when you hit the gym the next day, the gym equipment will identify you, automatically switch to your settings and record your repetitions. After the session in the locker room, you can check from a muscle heatmap how your exercise affected your body. This development direction will also significantly affect the type of interfaces you are using — it might not always be a touchscreen or buttons used to give commands but voice, gestures, or other kinds of perhaps more natural ways of interaction, Werring shares. He adds:

— These are things we are for sure taking into account when developing our products and services. It’s clear that not any company can develop all of these alone. The future of wearable tech is undoubtedly also about working together with other brands, creating solid partnerships, and ensuring that the user experience is seamless no matter from what brand the solution is.

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