According to anonymous sources quoted by Bloomberg, Fitbit (FIT) has been talking about making a fitness tracker for kids for at least a few months now. At first glance I was critical; but giving it some more thought, a new device aimed at a younger audience looks like it could be a good idea. That is assuming a few things happen, though.
What a kids' wearable would look like
It's true, Fitbit has some cheaper devices that could be suitable for little ones. The Zip activity tracker, a device that clips onto clothing, is a simple activity tracker that rings up at $59.95. If a wrist-worn device is the ticket, the Alta is the next most-affordable tracker at $129.95.
However, Fitbit's user license agreement doesn't allow for those under age 13. Both of those trackers also fall short of earning the "smart" label. Fitbit's first true smartwatch, the Ionic, launched in the fall of 2017 and features an app store, GPS tracking, water resistance, and the Fitbit Coach personal training app. It also has a sensor that can track blood glucose levels for those with diabetes, which the company continues to develop for easier consumer use.
Apparently, the idea is to offer a smartwatch along the lines of the Ionic for a younger audience. It would be the first in Fitbit's lineup officially for kids, but wouldn't be the first of its kind. Garmin (GRMN 0.18%) has the vívofit jr. and LG Electronics (NASDAQOTH: LGEAF) has the GizmoPal, among others. Fitbit's entrant would only make sense if it offered some things that the others don't.
Why it makes sense... maybe
First up, if Fitbit built a waterproof device with GPS tracking, app store connectivity, and other parental tracking features, it would be the first such device that brought all those things together in one package for kids. It would also have to be competitive in price, though, as the aforementioned Garmin and LG wearables cost about $80. That's a big discount from the $200 price tag on the Ionic.
If all those features could be delivered together, Fitbit could probably charge a premium over competitors. Better yet, though, would be if the company could get its sleep and blood glucose tracking into the device for kids who suffer from related health disorders. Fitbit co-founder and CEO James Park has long talked about transforming the company into a general healthcare business rather than one focused solely on hardware sales. Providing health disorder tracking for kids could go a long way toward making that goal a reality.
Why would that be significant, particularly blood glucose tracking? According to the World Health Organization, over 400 million adults have diabetes globally. Here in the U.S., over 29 million people have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. Among those under age 20, over 200,000 have either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, and more than 23,000 new cases combined are diagnosed every year.
It's a big problem that Fitbit could help manage. If an affordable smartwatch was developed that helped parents educate their kids and keep tabs on their health, my two cents is go for it. If not, there are already ample options on the market and it would be pointless.