Oct 30, 2014 · 1 minute

We've reached Peak Health.

In the last few days, Google has released a fitness application that uses smartphone sensors to measure physical activity; Microsoft has announced its own health platform and fitness tracker; even Nintendo has revealed a device that "reads a user's movement, heart rate, respiration and fatigue, and sends that data to servers to be analyzed," as Polygon reported Wednesday night.

That's not counting Apple's HealthKit platform, Facebook's interest in adding health-related tools to its products, and the release of new products from established contenders like Fitbit. Nor does it include fitness-focused applications and devices made by actual fitness companies.

I've written a fair amount about the privacy implications of all these health-related products. Allowing companies like Facebook and Google to expand their for-profit surveillance systems to the real world could be disastrous to the notion that people have a right to privacy, granting advertisers data about the most personal (and least changeable) aspects of our lives.

But the flood of fitness trackers has another danger -- drowning consumers in apathy. How is anyone supposed to keep track of all the smartwatches, activity monitors, and software that's been revealed over the last year? And how are they supposed to care about these products when they're being made by everyone from Apple and Microsoft to Facebook and Nintendo?

It's the same problem consumers encounter when they shop for new television sets. There are so many similar choices that it's almost impossible to make a decision based on a reasonable judgement of their quality. Many buy sets that look great in the store but terrible in the living room. A similar phenomenon will probably manifest itself whenever someone tries these products.

The last thing these companies want is to operate in a market similar to the one for television sets. Prices of new TVs have fallen since at least 2011, when the New York Times reported on the television bubble's pop, and have continued to haunt television manufacturers ever since.

Most product categories become commodities eventually. The difference this time is that all these companies are contributing to the commodification of health products before the market really has a chance to prove that it's worth all this commotion. Sometimes a rising tide raises all ships; other times it just drowns everyone aboard them and sends them to Davy Jones' locker.

[illustration by Brad Jonas]