Month: August 2014

The Wearables Industry Watch in One Word: *****

No surprise expletives; the word is Value & value is the topic of my latest at Wearable World News.  Click below to view.

Value: The Recurring Theme in the WorkTechWork Wearables Industry Watch

 

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Wearables Predictions: Who to Watch for Prediction #10

Skully Helmets captured my attention in January at the VLAB Young Entrepreneurs event.  That night Marcus Weller, Skully Helmet CEO, told an amazing story about his inspiration for the worlds smartest helmet.  Following an accident where he totaled his bike when the car in front of him slammed on its brakes while he was reading a street sign, Weller had a dream where he was reliving the accident.  “But I noticed something very different,” Weller said, “I had GPS navigation kind of floating in front of me like a hologram and I watched as the car hit the brakes and I went around it.”  When internet searches returned no results for the helmet, Weller built a team and product that, among other features, incorporates location based GPS navigation into a helmet.  Location is a form of context.  The point of sharing Weller’s story is to introduce context and the final industry watch for the 10th wearable prediction.

 Josh Bradshaw with Marcus WellerJosh Bradshaw of WorkTechWork.com with Marcus Weller, Skully Helmets CEO August 14, 2014

 Prediction # 10:  Contextual awareness will be enabled by wearable device adoption and become the next big thing in marketing and customer experience.

This is the tenth and final post in a Wearable Industry Watch Series for each of the 10 Wearables Predictions.  Visit the Wearable Industry Watch Series for details.

Weller’s contextually aware helmet is one example of a person’s location context being used to generate value for the wearer.  The wearer’s experience is enriched with information.  My first introduction to technology enabled contextual awareness came through Jeff Stevens, Founder & CEO of ContextM.  Stevens rightfully demoted content from its place as king in the world of mobile marketing and claims that in mobile marketing “Context is king, and content is queen.”

How so?  Enabled by computational power and data from data warehouses, social streams and wearable devices, marketers can go beyond targeting based on generalized segmentation:  relevant messages can be sent to a person by creating a complete understanding of several different forms of a person’s context.  These include but are not limited to a person’s location, who a person is with, where a person has come from, and, with the power of predictive analytics, where the person might be going next.  (For those interested in privacy, check out Who To Watch for Prediction #9 and Small Towns and Connected-World Privacy.)

Enrich Customer Experiences With Wearable Data

Context is about more than targeted marketing based on ambient intelligence; context is also about enriching customer experiences.  Customer experiences can be enriched in many ways which means there are applications of context out there yet to be discovered in the world of wearables.  Context can also be built in such a way that a device can understand its own context as well as the context of the user.

Sensor Platforms, which was recently acquired by Audience, developed FreeMotion™ Library, a software solution that enables sensor enabled device applications to better understand both the contexts and, where possible, the intent of a user engaging with a device.  For the purposes of this discussion we can consider smart phones as wearables because of their numerous sensors (and decorative cases people use to make a statement about who they are; see Who to Watch for Prediction #7).

FreeMotion™ enabled applications can understand various device contexts such as whether the phone is in a pocket, in a hand or sitting on a flat surface.  Similar to other fitness tracking wearables and the Moves App, user contexts can be derived from sensing current motion in the device.  Combined with location or other forms of context, the device can respond differently because sitting on the sofa at home is quite a different context from sitting in a train or sitting in a meeting at work.  As sensors consume energy, a focus on resource management is also made in order to improve energy consumption on the device (learn more about energy consumption in Who to Watch for Prediction #6).

Vehicles, Wearables & Context

No one is going to wear a car, but the car is becoming contextually aware.  Vehicles are now able to detect and communicate with phones and soon will be able to interact with other wearable devices.   We can look at contextual aware cars such as Google’s self-driving car, which has to be acutely aware of its own environment, for inspiration on context with wearables.

Lane assist technologies and automatic braking such as those  demonstrated in this stunt video by Hyundai are becoming available in a number of vehicles.

Mercedez Benz is developing amazing innovations for their smart cars.  Check out this Mercedes Benz contextual car demo with Robert Scoble, Startup Liaison Officer for Rackspace

And when it comes to amazing, a return to Weller and the contextually aware smart helmet is in order.  People are willing to support contextually aware innovation.  Only a few days into an Indiegogo campaign, Weller and his team have exceeded their $250k goal for the AR-1 by an astonishing 466% with over $1.1 million raised.  I tested it out at their offices yesterday and it is better than all the hype.Josh Bradshaw with AR-1

This is the last post in the Wearable Industry Watch.  For more details click here.

Back to the 1st Prediction: Who to Watch For Prediction #1

Previous Prediction: Who to Watch for Prediction #9

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Wearables Predictions: Who to Watch for Prediction #9

Do you have your wearable-generated data?  Can you even get it?  If you can get it can you use it?  Can you sell your own data?  Can you control who uses your data?  The answer to all of these questions?  no. No. NO.  NO! NO!!

This is the ninth post in a Wearable Industry Watch Series for each of the 10 Wearables Predictions.  Follow this blog or Twitter handle @WorkTechWork to be notified of each part of the series. To view all predictions and links to the other parts of the series, visit the Wearable Industry Watch Series.

Prediction #9:  The debate around ownership of wearables-generated data will continue.

Rachel Kalmar, Data Scientist at Misfit Wearables shared last August she has been wearing 10 different fitness trackers for months.  What does she have to say? “I can’t get my data!”  She makes the point of the value of time resolved data and this illustrates the point that wearable technology is creating data that not only do users not own, they cannot even access it!

ThingsAndTheInternet

Possession is nine-tenths of the law

Just in case you thought your data was yours, those privacy agreements take care of the final one-tenth of the law.   But, even though it seems like all hope is lost, the debate around ownership of wearables-generated data continues.  Here is look at some examples of things happening in this space

Value is the reason for the debate: Data is worth something

Is the Moves app really free?  Not if you value your data; your data is worth more than knowing how many steps you took (see prediction #1 for how Moves turns your phone into a wearable fitness tracker).  Moves was acquired by Facebook in April and then changed their privacy policy to enable data sharing with Facebook. Data can become insight, insight can trigger action, action that creates value and it is that value that companies are after, it is that value that made Moves an acquisition target in the first place and it is that value that some feel comes at the expense of their privacy.

The debate will continue and it may boil down to context vs privacy (more coming on context with the next prediction, see my thoughts on small town privacy here).  Wearable technology will generate more and more data.  All of it is worth something and when there is something worth fighting for in capitalistic free markets, expect a fight.

So goes Silicon Valley so goes Europe? 

Nope; at least not in the case of data privacy and ownership hence Europe’s right to be forgotten.

One European leader in this debate is the Qiy Foundation whose focus is on giving individuals control over their data, enabling them to share data with only those they trust.  I’m anxious to watch what will come from Qiy, particularly if the consortium can find a way that more value can be created when data is under the jurisdiction and ownership of the data generator.

The right to be forgotten is not necessarily the same thing as data ownership or privacy.  As will many well intentioned rules, it does create its own set of problems.  Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales called the right “deeply immoral.”  How could something well intended be deeply immoral?  People are losing the right and ability to access information.

The Debate Continues

Here are some interesting reads regarding what is happening in the debate; this is not a comprehensive list and each is just one small part of the picture.  Enjoy these and dig in further on your own searches around privacy topics.  The short of it is the debate continues.

Facebook Data Privacy Class Action Joined By 11,000 And Counting

Google Spotted Explicit Images Of A Child In A Man’s Email And Tipped Off The Authorities

How Safe is your Quantified Self (white paper by Symantec)

Americans want a better privacy balance

A bag of chips can be used against you

Five Things Privacy Experts Want You to Know About Wearables

Some humorous makeshift ‘wearables’ that take a creative approach to protecting your privacy

Next Prediction: Who to Watch For Prediction #10

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Wearables Predictions: Who to Watch for Prediction #8

Prediction # 8: People are going to use undetectable wearable technology by using wearable ultra-sensitive micro sensors, sensors smaller and more sensitive than the innovative seat belt microphone in Audi’s R8 Spyder that enables clear cell phone conversation with the top down at lightning speeds.

This is the eighth post in a Wearable Industry Watch Series for each of the 10 Wearables Predictions.  Follow this blog or Twitter handle @WorkTechWork to be notified of each part of the series. To view all predictions and links to the other parts of the series, visit the Wearable Industry Watch Series.

Where the last prediction focuses on people making a statement with wearable technology, this prediction is almost the opposite, highlighting that people will put technology to work by using wearable technology and no one will know about it.  The assumption is people will be able to do this because ultra-small, ultra-sensitive sensors will be easy to hide and thus go undetected.  The devices with these sensors may even consume less energy on account of their size so not even the battery will need to be big (see prediction #6).

Micro Sensors

It is fascinating how small sensors are becoming.  mCube, which recently raised $37 million in Series C funding, provides MEMS motion sensors that are as small as a grain of sand.  While their sensors are small, the benefits for wearable technology are huge!  Another example of small sensors with huge impact is Bosch Senortec GmbH who, among other MEMS sensors, has developed a microphone that is 700 square microns which is barely visible to the naked eye.

Wearing Sensors and People Don’t Know

The Dash by Bragi is a pair of Bluetooth operated ear buds.  These are not quite undetectable wearables, but people aren’t going to know that you’re wearing anything more than a fancy pair of wireless earphones.  The Dash ear buds are chock full of small electronics capable of measuring heart rate and oxygen levels and include an ear bone microphone enabling conversation in noisy situations by reducing ambient noise.  (Check out Who to Watch for Prediction #1 where Dash is included as an example for both of the two reasons why all single-purpose wrist-worn fitness trackers will become fad devices.)  Ear bone microphones are also utilized in TEA’s Invisio headsets which are designed for defense and security uses, although in these cases the wearer isn’t really hiding anything.

While we’re on the topic of defense and security, lets touch on spying, which is a very technology enabled business.  No, I do not envision a future where the majority of the population tracking every word and move of the people with whom they interact by using devices you can hardly see.  Some people think there is enough of tracking going on by big companies and governments and there will be more on this on that in the next post Who to Watch for Prediction #9.  That said, we are going to see more person on person spying than we have in the past.  Spy-enabling technology is simple, relatively inexpensive and available for anyone to use.  Parents are even sending children to school wearing wires and documenting instances of verbal and even physical abuse.  There will undoubtedly be more court cases as a result of spying by using undetectable wearable technology.

Discreet Medical Sensing

People do not necessarily want the world to know about their medical conditions.  The prediction that people will use undetectable wearable technology may actually come to fruition in instances where the device enriches someone’s life without having to let the world know what is going on.

The hearing impaired have benefited from smaller and smaller sensors and now hearing aids can be made so small they are completely hidden; no one has to know someone is wearing a sensor to amplify sound.  Of course, the innovation in hidden hearing aids occurred well before this prediction was made.  We will see new hidden wearable devices for people to monitor their hearts, blood sugar and a myriad of other physical indicators discreetly.   We will also see miraculous advancements in bionics with touch sensitive sensors enabling someone missing a limb to sense the world around them in such a way they can do it without anyone detecting they are missing a limb.

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Wearables Predictions: Who to Watch for Prediction #7

People take pride in what they wear; fashion is a multi-billion dollar industry.  Wearable technology entrepreneurs are taking product design seriously, serious enough to be called fashionable, thus enabling people to make a statement about who they are with a wearable device.  Are you making a statement with wearable technology? 

This is the seventh post in a Wearable Industry Watch Series for each of the 10 Wearables Predictions.  Follow this blog or Twitter handle @WorkTechWork to be notified of each part of the series. To view all predictions and links to the other parts of the series, visit the Wearable Industry Watch Series.ShineNodSenseFitbitToryBurch

Prediction #7:  People are going to use wearable technology to make a statement about who they are.

How many of you have worn a fitness tracker even though you knew the battery was dead?  Why did you do it?  Zero tracking is done during the day a dead fitness tracker is worn and folks do not get value from the lovely feel of silicone bands on their wrists so your motivation must have come from some other kind of value, value from making a statement about who you are.

Perhaps on the day the fitness tracker is dead, the statement is to yourself.  “Self, I’m going to be more active today even though I know this thing is off” and maybe a little, “Self, p.s. please remember to charge this tonight.”

I’m not sure you’ll do that many days before dropping the fitness tracker from your wardrobe.  It is more likely that the statement you make with the dead tracker on your wrist is to others because they cannot tell it is dead.  The dead fitness tracker still conveys your active lifestyle, early tech adopter mentality, or any other reason you would want someone to see a fitness tracker on your wrist.

Enough on dead fitness trackers, let’s have a look at some wearable products that are actually shaping up to be fashionable, products to keep an eye on to see if people start using wearable technology to make a statement about who they are.

Misfit Shine

In Who to Watch for Prediction #1 all single purpose fitness trackers including Misfit Shine are categorized as fad devices; however, the Misfit Shine looks cool, you can pick its color, and it is versatile in where it can be worn.  Some options include a few different choices of bands, a sport necklace or a prettier bloom necklace, or even a simple clip.  This product scores when it comes to remembering that a fitness tracker is more than just a fitness tracker, it is a fashion accessory people use to make a statement about who they are.

Nod

Nod, first introduced in Who to Watch for Prediction #2, is a gesture control ring.  As a piece of jewelry the design is important.  Nod places the bulky part of the ring under the finger so from a closed fist it looks like you’re wearing a thick, black band.  Not bad for a masculine look.  Nod designers are conscious of this and are contemplating ways Nod could be stylized to appeal to different genders; let’s see how they do in the coming months.  For now, though, like the original Model-T Ford, Nod can be pre-ordered in any color you want so long as that color is black.

Wiacts Sense

Sense by Wiacats is a gesture control device worn on the finger but it does not close completely around the finger to form a ring.  It has a sleek outer cover to shield the sensing components.  There are three colors in pictures on the Wiacts website, black, white and grey.  CEO Yaser Masoudnia, who is razor focused on creating a wearable that is easy to use and compatible with as many devices as possible, explained that Sense is not available for pre-order yet as in addition to finite sensing capabilities for IoT device control they are working on other functionalities, including payment authorization, before releasing Sense.

Tory Burch for Fitbit Flex

Fitbit has partnered with luxury lifestyle brand Tory Burch to create accessories for the Fitbit Flex.  These include a bracelet and pendant designs that one would not be surprised to see in a Nordstrom display.

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Wearables Predictions: Who to Watch for Prediction #6

This is the sixth post in a Wearable Industry Watch Series for each of the 10 Wearables Predictions.  Follow this blog or Twitter handle @WorkTechWork to be notified of each part of the series. To view all predictions and links to the other parts of the series, visit the Wearable Industry Watch Series.

Prediction #6: Wearable devices will need less frequent charging because of better energy storage and lower energy consumption.

For an intro to this topic as well as an introduction to Imprint Energy,  a company creating flexible batteries, check out this piece from Wearable World News: The Battery Bottleneck in Wearable Tech.

Better Energy Storage

Battery life is one of the common complaints of Google Glass which has a 570 mAh lithium-polymer battery.  While it does look bulky on the side of an Explorer’s head, the relatively small size does make it possible to charge in two hours.  Speedy recharge time, however, is not what this part of the prediction is about.  Wearable users need better energy storage.

Breakthroughs in energy storage are rare on account of the challenges associated with increasing energy density or storage capacity.  Increasing storage capacity generally negatively impacts charge efficiency, the ability to maintain storage capacity after many cycles of use, recharge, repeat, repeat, repeat…  A small battery with lots of energy that can only be used a few times is no good.

Scott Elrod, Vice President and Director of the Hardware Systems Laboratory research organization at Xerox’s PARC and a team of researchers have found a way to increase energy density 30% by using print technology.  Learn more in this video interview by Robert Scoble, Startup Liaison Officer for Rackspace:

ScobleXeroxParcBattery

 

A 30% improvement on the battery life of Google Glass will get you about 20 more minutes of video recording.  It still isn’t enough.  What if we could get 10x that?

Researchers at Stanford University’s Department of Chemical Engineering published an article July 27, 2014 covering research findings that both improve storage capacity and charge efficiency.   Forbes contributor Gordon Kelly writes in his piece Battery Life ‘Holy Grail’ Discovered. Phones May Last 300% Longer, “In future it would also allow batteries to become smaller (for example, half the size of a current battery but with twice the capacity).”

Size does matter in wearable devices and half the size is certainly something wearable device designers will be interested in as batteries are usually the largest components in wearable devices.

A copy of the research article can be purchased from the journal Nature here:  Interconnected hollow carbon nanospheres for stable lithium metal anodes 

I look forward to seeing this and other improvements in storage capacity and charge efficiency implemented in wearable devices.

Lower Energy Consumption

There are many creative solutions for lower energy consumption.  We’re more likely to see solutions on the market for lower energy consumption prolonging battery life in the near future than we are to see 300% improvement in battery storage capacity.  Lower energy consumption is going to come about because of energy conservation through multiple methods, methods that when combined can provide energy savings that keep wearable devices going longer and longer.

One of the key enablers of wearable device adoption is Bluetooth Low Energy.  With its lower energy consumption, wearable devices can sync with other IoT devices while consuming less power than classical Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

In Kane Fulton’s TechRadar article covering an interview of Noel Hurley, Deputy GM of ARM’s CPU Group, three key energy consumption solutions caught my eye.

  1. Chips specifically designed for particular use cases rather than off-the-shelf chips
  2. Software improvement that reduces CPU usage over new processor design
  3. Stripping functionality of systems down to only elements used in the wearable

ARM is not alone in the battle to reduce energy consumption.  PsiKick is well on its way to completely changing sensing technology by combining ultra-low-power system-on-chip (SoC) design and Sub-Threshold processing, processing that occurs using the energy that leaks through a digital switch even when the switch is off.  PsiKick can then use several different energy harvesting techniques to supply this energy, resulting in endless operation without a battery.  If this technology interests you, visit the PsiKick website or read this article: A Batteryless Sensor Chip for the Internet of Things.

These advancements in wearable energy technology are exciting and I’d love to hear more about efforts to reduce the frequency wearable devices need charging.  Please comment below or reach out and lets chat.

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Wearables Predictions: Who to Watch for Prediction #5

This is the fifth post in a Wearable Industry Watch Series for each of the 10 Wearables Predictions.  Follow this blog or Twitter handle @WorkTechWork to be notified of each part of the series. To view all predictions and links to the other parts of the series, visit the Wearable Industry Watch Series.

Prediction #5: The cost of sensors will continue to go down, thus enabling more uses and innovation with sensors in wearable devices.

Fifty years ago Cray’s 1964 CDC 6600 super computer sold for $8 million (about $55 million in today’s dollars).  Your smart phone can do more than that supercomputer.  It goes without saying that in fifty years one would expect the cost of sensors to go down; however, I actually anticipate the costs will go down dramatically in the next 10 years.

A Look at Sensor Cost Trends:

We’re going to take a tangent here away from wearables and focus for a moment on sensors in general as the sensors used in wearable devices are used in other places and a lot of the innovation that is occurring for sensing in manufacturing, research and development and other applications is benefiting wearable technology as a side perk for this fledgling industry.

A comprehensive report on sensor trends can be found in the Association for Sensor Technology’s Sensor Trends 2014.  There you can learn about development trends in electromechanical measuring, sensor electronics and semiconductor technologies, communication and system integration, packaging, and testing processes for MEMS components.  Several points discussed in the report touch on reasons for lower costs in components, packaging, sensor housings and other areas are attributed to cost savings for sensors.  The report also notes pressure being applied by sensor purchasers to reduce costs and cost reduction as sensor production increases and the industry benefits from economies of scale.

Robert Scoble, Startup Liaison Officer for Rackspace, talks about the decreasing costs of 3D sensors such as the one made by PrimeSense, which he and Shel Israel write about in their book, The Age of Context.  Acquired by Apple in 2013, PrimeSense sensors are used in the Xbox Kinect and have gone from costing over $100 a few years ago, to around $50 last year and now to an estimated $25.  This is ultra-video sensing for less than a trip to the movies with popcorn and soda.  For those who are curious, check out the precision of the Xbox Kinect sensors:

In this clip see Skeleton, Orientation, Muscle & Force and Heart Rate detection.

In this clip see 3D Sensor, 2D Color Camera and Active IR which allows the Xbox to see in the dark by removing ambient room light.

What does this mean for sensor technology?

I’m not sure if wearable sensors will experience 50% year over year cost reductions but lets note some prices here for the record to watch.

To pre-order and outfit oneself with Sensoria smart socks and t-shirt mentioned in Who to Watch for Prediction #3 you’ll be set back $300, $150 for one pair of fitness socks and one anklet and anklet charger, and $149 for a Sensoria Fitness T-Shirt and heart rate monitor bundle.  Another socks bundle offers four pairs of socks for $199.  The fitness t-shirt, sports bra and heart rate monitor are sold separately for $79 each.

For comparison, Hexoskin, whose product has been on the market for a year now, sells a starter kit for $399 that includes a biometric sleeveless shirt, the Hexoskin Bluetooth device and a USB cable.  Additional Hexoskin sleeveless shirts are sold for $179.

OMsignal’s Up & Running Kit can be pre-ordered for $199 and comes with a bio-sensing compression shirt, a data module and a USB charging cable.  A separate short sleeved shirt, the OM Endurance Fitness Short Sleeved sells for $99 and the OM Focus Lifestyle Sleeveless sells for $79.

Similarly, Live Athos is pre-selling a $390 bundle with a shirt ($99), shorts ($99) and Core ($199).

For this prediction to be right, the prices of these and smart clothing with similar features should go down dramatically over the next couple of years on account of sensor cost reductions if these producers pass the sensor cost savings on to their customers.  This should start to happen in the next year so we’ll stop back here and take a look at the prices and see how the price of a quantified jog changes.

There are other prices that ought to be documented here.  Several fitness trackers for both the quantified self and quantified pet come in at or around $99 including Whistle, Polar Loop, Misfit Shine, Nike+ Fuelband SE, Fitbit Flex, Mio, Skechers Gowalk, Sync Burn Fitness Band.  The Jawbone Up sells for $79 and Up 24 for $149.  LG’s FB84-BM also sells for $149 as does the Samsung Galaxy Gear Fit.  I could continue but this is an industry watch of a few companies and products, not a comprehensive review by a team of analysts.

If you are producing sensors, what is happening to your costs?  If you’re building sensors into wearable devices, are you applying pressure on suppliers to get the costs down so that you can attractively price your devices for the market?  If so, comment below or reach out as I’d love to talk.

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