Wearables are hot. Red hot. But a recent Nielsen survey finding struck me as being contrary to the goal of wearables targeting health: 70 percent of those surveyed say that accuracy is a preferred feature. What?

I recently trashed my pedometer because I discovered data I trusted was in fact WRONG. I double-checked the reported distance and I was being short-changed. So if that measurement was wrong, what else was wrong? Calorie burn? Steps.

Shouldn’t we all want and demand 100 percent accuracy when our health is at stake?

Are wearables worth the investment in improving your health? Or are you looking to just be cool? (By the way, shouldn’t the same accuracy questions apply to that smartphone app you are using – or looking to download?)

“When choosing wearable tech, consumers look for special features to fit their needs and match their style. Smart watch users find functionality (81%) and comfort (79%) of the utmost importance, while fitness band owners rank accuracy (70%) and battery life (64%) as the most important attributes. Durability of wearable devices was also critical to owners of smart watches (82%) and fitness bands (73%),” Nielsen says.

My wife wants a wearable to measure her daily health for Christmas. When I told a colleague about her request, she responded: “Oh, I need to get my husband one for Christmas. What can you tell me?”

Ah, there’s the rub. Is a wearable just the latest fad? Or do you want to be more fit?

Do Your Homework

If better health is the goal, be a smart shopper and check out just how accurate the health data is that those devices buy.

Isn’t that more important than whether it’s fashionable?

“[T]he appeal of wearables goes beyond fashion accessories, particularly as more consumers adopt technology to help address their individual health and fitness needs, using both wearables and smartphone apps to meet their goals,” Nielsen reported earlier this year.

The market is called mHealth, defined as mobile health devices used to monitor specialized health needs, Nielsen notes. And its survey found that young adults are the most likely buyers. They also are more likely to be women (52 percent) and make more than $50,000 a year.

But if the data is bad, how good is the device?

Is it not more of a threat?

“Accuracy Is the Ultimate Driver”

One of the hottest players in the mobile biometric measurement space is Raleigh-based Valencell. It recently received two patents and has landed Intel as well as LG among its licensing partners. Investors include the venture capital arm of Best Buy.

In a media update this week, the company warned against garbage-in, garbage-out results.

“A wearable is only as useful as the biometric data it delivers,” declared Dr. Steven LeBoeuf, the company’s president and founder.

“As a result, accuracy is the ultimate driver in long-term mass consumer adoption of wearable products. We have invested years of research and development into our PerformTek biometric sensor technology – the only clinically validated optomechanical sensor technology that has been proven to deliver highly accurate, continuous heart rate monitoring and other key metrics vital to tracking performance.”

Valencell reports that its licensing business is booming as companies look to cash in on the mHealth wave.

But before you buy yourself one or ask for a wearable to be put under the tree, do your homework.

Check review sites. Which devices are most accurate? Which ones deliver better on the promise of helping users improve their health?

Don’t be like me and have to toss your wearable in the trash – or see your partner have to stand in the exchange line.