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Monday, September 16, 2013

Activity trackers need to evolve to experiences to avoid becoming applications.

Wearable activity tracker market got a new twist with the launch of Apple iPhone 5s featuring the M7 Motion sensing coprocessor. This sensor processing unit enables the main processor to sleep, while sophisticated motion detection can take place. This could be likened to a Graphics Processing Unit, which fuels the gaming experiences on modern mobiles. Similarly a sensor processing unit could be fuel a new health and wellness experiences. Apple’s M7 processor takes the phone one step closer to a SoulMate, the device that knows more about yourself then you do yourself, and when connected to the cloud it could become an augmented nervous system, helping us to live healthier and happier.

Two Finnish startups are going down the app only route, Moves being the pioneer and Fjuul following suit. Their accuracy and utility should be dramatically boosted by  the M7 sensor processing unit. The app route has many advantages, which the data shows, more than  2BN steps tracked daily, Moves is possibly tracking more daily steps than Fitbit, making it the leader in the field. Daily steps tracked seems like a good metric in this category. Another good one will be number of activities recorded. Here a long-time favourite one of mine Heia Heia is tracking about 450 activities, although doing it manually, where users put in the value. Imagine if Heia Heia would do their own app leveraging the M7and get the community to help correct the algorithms. Detecting the difference between walking and walking with the dog is not a trivial mathematical task, and for users this is relevant as walking with the dog is the 5th most done form of human motion, if we are to believe the Heia Heia community, representing about 5% of Finns.

 Where will this leave the wearable activity trackers?

 They have three routes: The jewelry route, the experience route and some combination.

The jewelry route was pioneered by Jawbone Up and the Experience route by Nike Fuelband. During the past 18 months most players have followed in the footsteps of Jawbone Up becoming or trying to become jewelry like. This is their only conceptual advantage compared to an app only solution. 

The Nike Fuelband is different because it offers an experience. It is rudimentary, but being able with a click check your daily progress and see in an animation how far you are from your goal is still a bit magical. I have been missing it, since my Fuelband decided to die a sudden death in the summer.

I was really looking forward to getting the Misfit wearables Shine tracker, it looked so amazing in the pictures, but when I learned that I had to go into settings, turn on either sleep or swim with the triple tap I was lost, too cumbersome.

My conclusion is simple: For tracker jewelry to have a chance to win consumers hearths they have to evolve to experiences. In the world of electronics an experience is derived from a user interface, and here only the Fuelband has one. If they also manage to do the jewelry route they will unlock greater financial potential.



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