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Garmin Wearables: Health Tracking and Wi-Fi Network Performance

How wearable devices like Garmin fitness trackers may impact network performance—and how to prepare

According to the Pew Research Center, one in five adults regularly wears a smartwatch or fitness tracker. There are dozens of companies jumping into the health wearable market, and Garmin is among them. Many people know the company for its GPS systems, but over the past decade, Garmin has made a name for itself in healthcare tracking and fitness data.

As these Wi-Fi-capable devices increase in popularity and become not only a part of people's daily lives but key tools for health research, there will inevitably be an impact on Wi-Fi networks. Let's take a look at Garmin's expansion into the wearable world and what organizations can do to prepare for a surge in these types of devices on their networks.

Garmin health and wearable devices

Garmin is a nearly $4 billion a year company. It currently sells over 20 types of fitness trackers and smartwatches, which make up over 25% of the company’s overall business. There are devices for specific sports, sleep monitoring, survival, and kids, among many others.

For example, the vívoactive® 4 is currently Garmin’s best-selling fitness watch, designed to go toe-to-toe with Apple and Fitbit. The device comes with 20 pre-loaded sports apps, workouts, numerous health stats, and Wi-Fi connectivity. On top of that are the pay features, extended battery life, and extreme durability, representing a good all-around tool for fitness tracking. Other Garmin devices have similar features with a variety of combinations and specialties.

Garmin is also making headway in the health data industry as researchers and companies realize the potential information these devices can provide. Instead of relying on data from closed, often unreliable, focus groups, these devices gather data and metrics from real people going about their daily lives.

Garmin Health is the company’s initiative to provide participating partners with full access to their database of wearable users and help them create health programs of their own. They are partnering with entities in the healthcare, pharmaceutical, academic, and corporate fields to enhance health research and take initiatives to the next level via wearables. Garmin also provides API and developing services so partners can customize their programs and access real-time data online.

Garmin is steadily growing year over year, finding unique ways to expand its reach to circumvent the market share held by Apple and Fitbit. As these companies and their offerings grow, so do the number of wearables and personal devices impacting networks. Given that many of these devices are now Wi-Fi capable, businesses have to plan for the effect they may have on network performance and security.

The impact of wearables on network performance

It’s estimated that by 2021, most people will have an average of 13 network-connected devices on them at any given time, increasing from the current average of eight. Again, many wearables have Wi-Fi support, which means they are independently connecting to the network and handling data without a complementary smartphone.

What effect will these devices have on company networks, and how can you start preparing now?

  • Data offloading: The amount of data offloaded onto a network and processed will exponentially increase with more IoT devices. Companies should consider upgrading their network and wireless standard to handle the load. IEEE 801.11ax is the newest Wi-Fi standard, released in 2019. It improves per user throughput by a factor of four compared to the previous version. Plus, it’s designed to handle more simultaneous users without sacrificing speed and connectivity.
  • IP addresses: Consider the IP addresses you have at your disposal and anticipate the number of devices you will have on your network. Do you have enough to go around? If not, think about whether you need to reallocate addresses or whether you will deny access to certain devices.
  • Network Segmentation: It’s very common for organizations to segment wearables and other IoT devices onto a separate network. This method can enhance security, adding an extra layer of protection around the company’s more sensitive assets and operations. To prevent overloading a band, you should also consider the traffic on 2.4Ghz vs. 5Ghz. Managers may need to shift traffic depending on device capabilities and congestion.
  • Security: Wearables and other personal devices can pose a serious security threat to any organization. The inherent security features of some devices are weak, making them perfect targets. Once they connect to the network, malware can spread and impact other assets. Companies should also assume that employees are accessing and storing proprietary data on these devices, exposing their information to leaks and attacks the second they go elsewhere.
  • Network monitoring: Wireless network monitoring is the best way for organizations to stay on top of device-access and Wi-Fi issues. 7SIGNAL’S Mobile Eye is a SaaS application that keeps tabs on all wireless IoT equipment on your network. It runs passively in the background on any device and consistently tests Wi-Fi from the end user’s perspective so organizations can identify and fix problems before they spread.

7SIGNAL is designed to maximize network uptime, device connectivity, and network ROI. No matter your industry, the increase in wearables and other personal equipment will have an impact. Prepare your business, base upgrades on actionable data, and protect your most critical network needs with wireless network monitoring.

7SIGNAL® is a leader in enterprise Wireless Network Monitoring. The 7SIGNAL platform is a cloud-based Wireless Network Monitoring (WNM) solution that continuously troubleshoots the wireless network for performance issues – maximizing network uptime, device connectivity, and network ROI. The platform was designed for the world’s most innovative organizations, educational institutions, hospitals, and government agencies and is currently deployed at Booz Allen Hamilton, IBM, Kaiser Permanente, Walgreens, Microsoft, and many others. 7SIGNAL continuously monitors the connectivity of over 4 million global devices. Learn more at www.7signal.com.