The world is getting more and more connected is no revelation at all. In fact, more objects are getting networked and will continue to do so perpetually. What will come out from billions of connected devices is loads of data. Data that will kick start massive changes to the way we live today.
One of the more interesting and leading trends on the consumer side, in connected devices ecosystem, is wearable technology. With sensors getting smarter and smaller, companies big and small are sparing no effort to persuade users to adopt gadgets that make use of these sensors. Wearable technology and the data generated by them has disruptive potential. It’s benefits are going to be widespread, especially on the user health.
I have been using Nike’s Fuel band for several months now. In fact I have raked in more than 600,000 Nike fuel. After using it for months I would say that the ergonomics of the band have been perfect for my arm. I believe it has been successful and most people have been happy with it as well. However, Nike was one of the first movers and we see several devices out there now. Devices from Fitbit, Shine, Jawbone’s UP, Withings Pulse etc. Not only that there are standalone apps that make use of the mobile devices and sensors/chips within them.
The current bread of gadgets is still a long way from becoming all useful and pervasive. I have my own interpretation of a wearable band that would go beyond just tracking my miles and calories.
Here is my wish list for a wearable band –
It should have the ability to measure my movements. Instead of only measuring my walking, jogging, running, cycling etc, the band should have the ability to track all movements and lack of it as well. In case I am sitting on my desk for far too long, it should vibrate or glow and ask me to take a walk. For my daily fitness routine, it should be able to plot my run on a map, that I can share, revisit etc. Some of the trackers do that and so do a lot of apps. A lot of the above measurements are done by the current breed of wearable bands/gadgets in some form.
However, there are some measurements that should start getting incorporated into the wearable bands. Heart rate monitor is a must have. What is also equally important is to have measurements like external temperature, humidity and air quality sensors. A lot of these can be built into the bands and for some that cant be, the developers should pick data from existing third party apps/sensors. I believe creating a localised weather grid is going to be extremely useful and important. Look at Smart Citizen. Imagine getting localised and specific data about air quality, humidity, temperature, weather etc before starting your run, it sure is useful!
Here is a story that makes me want the above combination. A few days back I was on a run and I completed 4 km in 25 minutes. This is no significant achievement, however, for me it was a first. At the completion of the run I felt so uneasy that I wanted to simply lie down. That day several factors played a role and in retrospect I believe a much more intelligent band would have stopped me in the tracks. The humidity level on that day was significantly higher and so was the temperature. I also realised the pollution level was much higher as I took the run in the evening. In case I had a wearable band that could monitor my heart rate and take measurements of humidity, outside temperature and air quality levels, I believe it could have warned me to slow down. Due to this unfortunate event, I had to take rest for a day or so and that was not a great feeling.
Another slightly unrelated issue that complicated the entire event was that when I reached home, my door was locked. I had to climb 4 stories to be greeted by a closed door. With IoT happening and connected locks becoming a reality, closed door could have recognised my band and let me in.
Data ownership and interoperability.
Another issue that is closely linked with the current breed of wearable technology is the use of proprietary measurement systems. With these systems there is a general lack of data portability. Today I cannot take the 600,000 Nike fuel I have earned to another band I might want to use. This creates another question, who owns the health data? My personal view is that all the apps, hardware and associated software companies should open up the data they individually generate. They should allow full interoperability of this data. It’s only when one device or app can talk to another; when a user can accumulate data on a device and take it to another, will we see the full potential of wearable technology.
With data portability and API’s available, one could create real world rewards. I strongly believe that with 600,000 Nike fuel I should have been able to use them for a physical reward. The possibilities are endless.
Some additional use cases that I believe can take the ecosystem to the next level.
Health measurement and gamification –
Today we use the device at a personal level and at most share some goals and achievements socially over facebook, twitter, other fitness apps. However, once data sharing is standardized and all major data manipulation loopholes are covered, this data can be used to generate benefits from enterprise offerings. Why should my personal insurance company not give a discount if I am regular with my fitness? Measurement combination can be used as a metric to gauge the fitness level of an individual. The more fit a user is, the better deal they should get on insurance renewals.
Corporate HR is always looking out to find ways of driving messages to their employees about being healthy. With wearable technology they can go a step further and start measuring the same. Employees who regularly exercise and take care of their physical health should get incentivized. However, HR also needs to factor in programs for employees who don’t have the benefit of participating in physical exercise.
Wearable band as an ID card –
With wearable technology become mainstream it could potentially be used as an identifier also. One could store personal information including ones picture on the same. Not only that if an individual is working with a company, their corporate details could also be programmed into it. The enterprise could have the ability to add/remove users and data related to user to ensure complete control. With a data armed band, all a user has to do is wave their band at the security and complete their identification without having to carry I cards or fill up visitor registers (yes, it happens a lot in many countries). Folks at NYMI are already doing this in certain ways
The device could also have the ability to push data out in case of emergency. If a user is in trouble or is incapacitated, the device could open up vital details about the user to be read by companion devices, phones or emergency response teams. This could prove to life save in several situations.
While we have device manufacturers making smart watches that compliment mobile phone, I would love to see a wearable gadget that takes care of the above scenarios. It will be much more functional and usable that telling me know that I have a missed call!