This quote is from the Google Glass site, simply saying Back to the Drawing Board.

no power pebble

My battery-drained Pebble watch.



After the speaking on a panel at the conference in San Francisco the last few days, I wonder how many other wearables companies will go back to the drawing board or be forced to reinvent themselves?


How wearable technology affects our lives

As you can see from the photo, my Pebble watch lost power because I hadn’t had time to re-charge it while at the conference. The following day, my Misfit had problems syncing up with my iPhone. Given these problems, I’ve had a chance to sit and think about what I said, the questions we had during the panel and what some of the other panelists shared.

One of the key takeaways is that any wearable company should think of themselves as a software company and that like any other software company, there is a need for strategy and thinking way beyond the hardware. The hardware is merely a mechanism to collect data or display data. The real value is the data and what can be done with it. Although some directions were discussed on where the panelists thought things where going, mobile wearables strategies, outside the fitness realm was something really hot on my mind, but the opportunity just wasn’t there in that forum to bring it up. When thinking about the right mobile wearables strategy for those out there designing, developing and testing both hardware and software products, I think there are three factors you must get right:

  1. Getting the data – Any wearable, fitness oriented or not, has a goal of getting data. Given that, there is a ‘cool’ factor which I mentioned in my LinkedIn article along with obtrusiveness. Sometimes they are opposing goals, but the primary element that you need to think about is getting the data, making sure its accurate and reliable, and ensuring that it is easy for the user to transfer the data from the wearable to the collection device which is in most cases, a mobile smartphone. Many fitness wearable companies are focused on the ‘cool factor’, such as Misfit which has the Swarovski necklace wearable, but this differentiating factor sometimes does not last long without real value in the information. Don’t forget that the wearable has to be not only non-obtrusive but comfortable to wear. If a user takes it off, its not collecting data!
  2. Turning the data into valuable information – So, any of the information collected needs to have compelling value to the end user. The most important consideration is the focus or targeted user for your product. Many of the current fitness wearables present data in all kinds of formats and aggregations but after using the data, or ‘looking’ at the data for a few days or weeks, the user is often lost in the data trying to find real meaning. Certainly, as some panelists said, there is value in wearables data where some companies are giving discounts to those employees that use them and accomplish certain goals, but this also brings to light the issue of privacy and ownership of the data. I think that the data would become much more valuable if it could be combined and integrated with other sources. For instance, tracking my steps has very little meaning by itself, but if somehow steps could be correlated with blood pressure and sleep, that may provide more value. If I walk more, I can lower my blood pressure? or Is walking related to my weight?
  3. Presenting the data – The problem I see with some wearables is trying to do too much. First, we have the issue of glance ability, which I mentioned in my previous blog. The user, depending on their context, needs to be able to look very quickly and get value from the data presented. Secondly, it needs to be easily digestible, with minimal effort, or cognitive expense. Think of the many different watch faces of the Pebble watch. If you glance at it, which one is most easily and most quickly interpreted?

So, as you begin to venture down the path of developing a wearable, think about your mobile wearables strategy. What data will you present? How will you combine and integrate it with other data to make it valuable to the user? And how will you present the data so they can see it without expending too many cognitive resources?