It is almost 10 years ago that I entered the fascinating and at times complex world of wearable technologies and having now the first generation of our company's products used by elite sports and medical institutions, it is a good time to take a moment and reflect on what are the key points into transforming wearable technologies into something meaningful that will have an impact on our lives in the upcoming years.
The trip of wearables will be a long one since it is at its early years and there is massive scope of improvement in information gathering, dissemination and ultimately exploitation. Fascination will also be big part of this trip, since wearables unavoidably touch various sides of our nature, be it basic aesthetics, fashion and trends awareness, communication with our friends and peers, psychology, ethics, or even fear, of what we or others might find out about ourselves.
During a regular office meeting with one of my colleagues, we discovered premature ventricular contractions PVC in his heart, accidentally spotted by streaming his ECG live on his mobile phone during the whole meeting. I am not quite sure he wanted to know this at first - in the meantime he checked it with his doctor and he is reassured his heart is well, so I have a happy colleague again.
During the last seven years of preparing SenseCore to enter the market I first had to talk to investors that were demanding proof that our data is medical-grade in order for the technology to be valid and worth investing into. Once we hit the market, often the same people ask what is the need for such unique and high quality information. "Are wrist gadgets not good enough for the average person?" The answer is emphatically 'no.' When your heart rate is calculated by an algorithm, your respiration rate is calculated by an algorithm that uses the algorithmically calculated heart rate as the basis, and so on, and you keep building numbers that are based on sequential assumptions and algorithms, then it is easy to understand that people sooner or later get it and lose interest. Why carry a device that assumes things on your behalf? If you want to be entertained you are better off watching a funny video online instead of wearing dubious devices. I once remember starting my long effort to lose 45lbs and the first step was using a wrist band to count my steps. When at times the steps were still very few in the evening, I would shake the wrist band for 10-20 seconds and I would get a green score. I stopped using the wrist band there and then. Similar situation with devices that use invented heart rate variability values to tell you how tired you are, when you should train, etc. It simply gives you too much false information to stand the test of time.
While simplicity is not a good thing for information gathering and a profound technology is a requirement, simplicity is a must have when discussing usage of wearable products. Often to my dismay, I have found out that users have become so accustomed to super simplistic mobile apps' interfaces, so that even asking them to press a button to switch on or off a device is a step too much. Button-free devices is the word. Same for the software interface. You should aim at collecting maximum information while not asking more than a few seconds of the user's time and attention span per week. Otherwise, your products will be dropped in no time.
All the above considerations can lead to a great product, but in order to have a truly outstanding one, one needs to put something extra into it. And that is the human element in the form of a philosophy. It might sound unclear or fluffy, but that is what made it for me, convincing me that a wearable device can have a massive impact on your life. Most of SenseCore's clients grasp the medical or sport related benefits of the technology, but they get emotional about the product in relation to the performance and well-being philosophy of a renowned sports doctor that we have integrated into it. It is a philosophy that has been applied successfully with many Formula 1 drivers for example and has been transfused into the products' software making you ask yourself: 'Do I know who I am? Do I know what I want?' and 'Am I in control of my life?' They all sound like simplistic or scary questions, depending on what is your take on them, but only once you clarify to yourself what are your goals, commitments and only once you can really take the decisions required to make a change in your life, only then can you make good use of a wearable product and achieve progress. Answering these questions made a massive difference in me clarifying how to address some of my life's biggest professional challenges, but also achieve small victories like losing these 45lbs.