Why Garmin Has Sent 6000 Watches To The US Space Force

Garmin has announced a two-year study on how useful wearables are for replacing fitness assessments.

As part of the study, more than 6000 of Garmin’s watches will be slapped on the wrists of members of the US Space Force, which is “organized under Department of the Air Force”.

The watches in question are Garmin Forerunner 55 and Garmin Instinct 2 Solar models, which were apparently chosen for their “abundant battery life, high-quality biometric data and the ability to disable GPS functionality.” But it also makes this exercise a heck of a lot less expensive than handing out 6000 Garmin Fenix 7 Pro or Epix 2 Pro watches. They are lower-end models.

These watches are also feature-packed and highly capable for lower-cost wearables. They have good heart rate hardware, especially the Instinct 2 Solar, and are able to estimate someone’s VO2 Max score.

What’s the point? The U.S. military is attempting to find out whether fitness assessment using these consumer-grade wearables is a feasible replacement for regular active fitness testing.

It has been dubbed the Continuous Fitness Assessment (CFA) project.

“By tracking two basic metrics—cardiorespiratory fitness and physical activity—we can quickly verify that a Guardian has met their physical requirements and is ready for duty,” said the Air Force Research Laboratory’s product line lead Dr. James Christensen. Members of the Space force are dubbed Guardians.

Christensen says the hope is this will “promote a higher, more consistent level of fitness across the force with expected outcomes like reduced injury and stress, improved resilience and higher overall operational performance.”

Garmin’s Senior Director of Garmin Health Engineering Scott Burgett arguably highlights the most cogent reason for such a project, though, the possibility of “potentially saving the U.S. Military time and money.”

The trial is set to last for two years, and the 6000 participants represent a substantial proportion of the 8400 folks employed by the US Space Force.

This arm of the U.S. Military was announced in December 2019, and its mission is to “protect U.S. and allied interests in space and to provide space capabilities to the joint forces,” which is presumably why it can afford to gamble, even in the slightest way, the fitness of its members.

Garmin watches offer a number of stats that could be used for this study. VO2 Max offers a one-number summary of someone’s running or cardio fitness level. There’s resting heart rate, while a look at someone’s training load over time can tell you how hard they are working out.

Some Garmin watches, including both the Forerunner 55 and Instinct 2 Solar, also have a race predictor feature that will estimate how fast they think you could run a 5K or 10K distance, if you really tried.

Don’t like the idea of Garmin supplying the military? Garmin already makes a whole military-specific watch line, Tactix, and reportedly whole squadrons of fighter pilots are, or at least were, supplied with high-end Garmin watches.

Source: www.forbes.com

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