Wearables Dirty Laundry

WorkTechWork.com

One year ago today the first WorkTechWork.com wearable predictions were made.

During the past few weeks every company and product discussed on WorkTechWork.com related to wearables was reviewed, every company website was visited and as many people as humanly possible who are working in this space were contacted.

The update below is broken into two sections, Dirty Laundry (a summary of wearable industry issues) and Predictions Review (each prediction, its status and selected product/company highlights).  As always, your comments and feedback are welcome, especially if you disagree with the conclusions.

Dirty Laundry

With so many of you the discussions were pretty open and many things that keep you up at night were discussed.  In most cases the problems you confided were the same problems others in the space are experiencing.  You are not alone with the challenges in the wearable space.

With this insight, this update took on a new objective: Air the dirty laundry as an attempt to shed some light that may eventually bring success or at a minimum help and comfort to those of you involved in this space.  The hope is that as you see these things discussed, you will be able to discover areas to improve and to improve the wearables industry.

No one company’s dirty laundry is being aired and no, I will not reveal who’s got what kind of baggage.  I’m bullish on where wearable technology will go and confident the problems will be solved by the skilled people working in this space.  I want to see your success as wearable technology fits the WorkTechWork mantra, “Don’t work for technology; make technology work for you.”

  • Wait and See

For years now those active in the space have anticipated a wearable by Apple.  Apple, with its history of successful product launches such as the iPod, iPhone and iPad, has been seen as the possible savior and market creator for wearables.  ‘I’m waiting for Apple to create the compelling use case for wearable tech’ has become a mentality that has slowed progress.

During Apple’s detailed presentation at their event on March 9th, no single compelling use case was presented.  This is because there is no single compelling use case for wearable technology.

There are many niche applications of wearable technology that in most cases only make an attempt at partially justifying the cost of the product or service offered from the wearable technology.  What Apple, Samsung and others can only do is combine the multiple niche applications and integrate them with existing ecosystems in such a way as to create a wearable network effect.  The value of a niche application of wearable technology and the wearable network effect can be compared like the value of a single instrument and an orchestra.

One more thing on the wait and see mentality.  Many are waiting to see if the Apple Watch will flop like Google Glass before investing either their time or resources into wearable technology (and I’m not just talking about investors investing, customers investing in the purchase and learning curves of wearable tech too).  The Apple Watch is a consumer product designed for consumers making it quite different from Glass.  Wrist worn computing is not a consumer fad.

  • Focus

Just because something is possible doesn’t mean it is what should be done.  Knowing what you will not do is just as important as, and in many cases more important than, knowing what you will do.  Wannabe ocean boilers abound in the wearable space.  This comes partially because one use case does not create enough value.  Moreover, some wearable products are being developed by hardware engineers who love engineering hardware a little too much.

For example, and this is a partially fictitious example to protect the innocent, if a wearable idea incorporates a camera on wearers elbows, focusing on creating a camera is probably not the best use of time.  Finding a partner and using their camera will free up precious time to focus on the technology, the strategy and the team who will take the most amazing and compelling elbow wearable camera product to market.

Focus on the niche your wearable team can be best at in the world, whether it’s hardware, software or some other aspect.  Once that is figured out, when someone comes along and suggests that the wearable elbow camera would do amazing things if the software were altered for cows or monkeys, you’ll know what to do.  Otherwise no one will take you serious because you are not focused because while you are focused on cameras, cows and monkeys, your funds will dry up, your investors if you had them in the first place will walk away and what is left of your team will be blaming the market for not being ready for your killer application of wearable technology.

  • Design

When it comes to wearables, Silicon Valley cannot design like engineers anymore!  Wearables are not metal boxes tucked away under desks and the design challenges are everywhere.

  1. Working with small displays means designing with an incredible amount of UX focus.
  2. Working with things touching the skin means designing with touch in mind.
  3. Working with things people see means designing with visual appeal in mind.
  4. Working with things people don’t want seen means designing unobtrusively and discreetly.
  5. Working with niche applications means designing within boundaries around target functions.

The list could go on and on.  Design is the keystone in the archway to wearable success.

  • Finding Use Cases

What makes sense for one doesn’t make sense for all because wearable technology is what can be at best called a niche application marketplace (the n word has been used in each section above in case you’ve skipped to here).  Every niche has a piece of value.  When push comes to shove the use cases have to be found and the stories have to be told around those use cases.  The stories will be different for business and consumer use cases.  I do not know the stories; you do not know the stories; your customers know their story; customers like stories.

For example, let’s assume your product is a wearable magic ring that enables mermaids to take human form and walk on land (yes, I’m stretching things to protect the innocent and not-so-innocent again).  If this fictional wearable were real, packaging it simply as ‘it sprouts legs’ is a complete undersell.  What about dancing, hiking, running, jumping and the opportunity to follow your heart’s true love among all the other use cases?  Ignoring the use cases, the stories, the experiences, the enrichment brought by the product and saying ‘it sprouts legs’ sounds empty.

To avoid sounding empty as an industry we must move beyond ‘it counts steps’, ‘it tracks heart rate’, ‘it alerts you with notifications’, ‘it has a camera’, ‘it posts to Facebook’, and ‘it generates data’.  The stories of real use cases must be told to reach the wearable happily ever after.

  • Financing

Wearables companies struggle with financing.  Not everyone can pull a Pebble and raise over $8.5 million overnight on Kickstarter.  Not everyone who successfully raises capital can continue to do so.  The tides can change as we see with Jawbone who amid apparent financing and market struggles is rumored to be close to closing a $300 million investment by BlackRock (and yes, this IS quite interesting to see fund managers at a company I dedicated nearly 6 years to also interested in wearable tech. See more about the deal at http://fortune.com/2015/02/27/jawbone-blackrock-investment/Post publication note, Jawbone did receive capital from BlackRock although it appears that capital came in the form of debt, creative in the wearable financing space see more here Read on Fortune: Jawbone’s $300 million investment isn’t what you thought)

Just as it is difficult for wearable entrepreneurs to secure financing, it is also difficult for investors to see the forest through the trees with everyone vying for attention and basically presenting the same value propositions.  In many cases investors are reluctant because their participation with smaller wearable players just educates the market and paves the way for big players like Apple to come in and reap the benefits.  This could be one of the reasons Pebble went to market with Pebble Time through Kickstarter rather than through normal channels with investor funding.

  • Partnerships

It is difficult to decide who to partner with.  Some wearable companies are partnering with companies in their development and in doing so they are then unable to sell their products to competitors.  Some wearable companies are partnering with companies because they are cash strapped and the deals, while they may detract focus from the team’s ultimate objectives, involve money.  Some wearable companies have dedicated tremendous effort to work with partners on projects and then the projects have been deprioritized by the partner leaving the wearable company lagging behind competitors in areas that originally were its strengths.

Partnering with larger companies is challenging.  Be prepared for partners who tend to be slower to react than your entrepreneurial nature can tolerate.  Create partnerships for wearable development where the partnership is a means to an end, otherwise the partnership may just mean the end.

  • Doing Something New

Most wearables involve technology or applications of technology that no one has ever seen before and no one knows the value of.  New and different mean challenging, challenging to do, challenging to secure investment and challenging to understand and create markets.

The creators of wearable technology solutions often times do not know the value of their solution.  Creators also do not often know where to find out what the value is.  It is always more challenging to be a solution looking for a problem rather than a problem looking for a solution; much of what is coming out of the wearable space is in the former category.

  • Leadership & Culture

Many creative minds entering the wearable space are at the same time taking the first steps in their career paths.  Wearables is also a new area so it is impossible to find leaders with decades of experience working with wearables.  Some leadership is being transplanted from other areas to fill the void and some leadership is being groomed by skilled mentors, advisors and investors to become the next generation of disruptive leaders.

Multiple wearable companies I’ve spoken with, and no names or companies will be shared, are struggling with leadership and cultural problems.  Many startup teams don’t know cultural or leadership issues are a problem because they have not experienced anything different.  Some of these people have never worked in a business team let alone built or managed a team.  Another challenge for these teams is developers are being attracted by large, established companies which means many entrepreneurs are working with lower quality developers or are forced to outsource and work and coordinate teams spread all over the world.  These are tough challenges to lead through.

There comes a point where the frat mentality becomes too much for an organization to sustain.  There comes a point where true leaders must say goodbye to sunk costs.  There comes a point when innovative people must listen to customers, partners and investors and become leaders by changing the ship’s course, rather than sailing on in the original direction.

  • Adversity to risk

One would think in a nascent space such as wearable technology that adversity to risk would not be an issue; is it not on the front row seat in the ride to the future?  Smart people have a tendency to look for the right answer and in this niche fraught space, no single right answer exists to every question. Thinking too much about a strategy for wearable tech can lead to paralysis by analysis.

A risk adverse mentality can flourish in a group where everyone thinks alike.  Finding ways to diversify the wearable team will make it stronger and change the risk profile of the company.  You no longer will have to be afraid of the unknown or will simply overlook the obvious when someone experienced with these things is a part of your team.

  • Appropriate Business Models

Finding appropriate business models causes consternation to more wearable tech company teams than you might know.  How do companies producing wearables monetize their solution?  Once the team gets beyond knowing where value is created, the team has to figure out who will pay for that value.  Unlike other products and services where it is obvious who benefits from the product or service, with wearable technology the answer is not always clear.

For example, consider any wearable device that senses a person’s quantified self data, whether it is steps, heart rate, brain waves or any other physical or biometric data point.  It is hard to tell who, among the many who may benefit from the data, would be willing to pay.  The list of possibilities obviously includes the wearer but also extends to the wearer’s family, friends, caregiver, physical therapist, personal trainer, physicians (and a single person can have many), hospital, pharmacist, health insurance provider and even local and national governments.  Beyond this, retailers and advertisers value knowing this information as well.

  • Recovery from Failure

Wearables, much like a bad one night stand, have caused bar fights, headaches, nausea, rashes, embarrassment and shunning.  Wearables are struggling to come back from these inconvenient moments in the past, particularly when it comes to demonstrating progress.  Progress can be terribly hard to measure as wearable technology inches out of the trough of disillusionment.  Progress will be achieved by sharing the success stories of wearable technology.  The world needs to know when wearable technology has saved the time, money, health and even lives of wearers.

Some products, some companies, and some entrepreneurs in the wearable tech space will fail. The path of an entrepreneur is not paved with success; paving the path makes an entrepreneur a success.  That success is not always measured in the size of a company or numbers of products sold.

Predictions Review

The full prediction is listed for each of the 10 wearable predictions followed by a status and company and/or product highlights.  These are long term wearable industry predictions so they will not be changed or appended to with this update.

In some areas progress is slower than anticipated and also slower than consumers, entrepreneurs and investors wish progress to occur.  People are waiting for the compelling use cases and we have the issues in the previous section (and more) to work on.  Moreover, it is important to deliver on the promises we’ve made since the birth of this market.   If not, as Redg Snodgrass, CEO of Wearable World shared with me, “people will be disappointed.”  As participants in this space, the bar is set high and we must move forward.  “It’s time for us to rapidly iterate to make our products undeniably and incredibly useful for people’s lives,” said Snodgrass, who runs a wearables focused startup accelerator in San Francisco.

Prediction #1

Wearables of the future will be more than fad devices; they will satisfy customer needs. (click to view original Industry Watch)

Status

When push comes to shove, wearables will still need to satisfy customer needs.  The challenges in the previous section explain some of the reasons why needs need to be met and also why so many needs are still unmet.  It will take time but the industry will get there with this prediction.

Company/Product Highlights

Misfit

When it comes to looking at the products the first thing I’d like to do is admit that I may have inappropriately lumped Misfit’s products in with the single purpose fitness tracker device fad.  Why?  The Misfit Shine does more than track steps.  Shine looks good, tells time, tracks sleep, can be worn in many places (different clips), has a 6 month battery life, is waterproof to 50m, and has watch functionality.  In other words, Misfit Shine is more than a single purpose fitness wearable.

Fitness trackers in some form or another may not completely fade into the background as fad devices.  Some reasons include minimalist function and visibility (some can even be tucked in a pocket and you don’t have to have an ugly rubber band, however small, on your wrist).  Of course, the ever present issue of battery life helps with the lightweight fitness trackers.  Durability in extreme sports situations make these simple trackers compelling to some consumers who don’t want to risk damaging an expensive smart watch and/or its tethered smart phone.

For more on Misfit and Misfit Shine check out:

  1. https://twitter.com/Misfit
  2. http://misfit.com/products/shine
  3. https://www.facebook.com/MisfitWearables

Google Glass

In the WorkTechWork Wearable Industry Watch Google Glass for the masses was referred to as a ground breaking fad device.  Glass is no longer offered for sale to consumers; it is still being sold to Google Glass partners for enterprise use.

The most compelling reason for the fail of Google Glass in the consumer space is that an interface over the eye with a camera possibly capturing images or video at any time violates the social contract.  The eye as the interface is not gaining traction with everyday consumers.  Glass did not fail because it wasn’t cool (HBR) or because it made you look stupid (Marketing Week).  Even if Glass had passed the fashion test, been cheaper, had more applications, or had longer battery life, it still would have violated the social contract and people would still be concerned about their privacy.

Of course, Glass is still alive as an enterprise solution but for that discussion let’s take a look at the next company, APX Labs.

For more on Google Glass check out:

APX Labs

Brian Ballard, Founder & CEO of APX-Labs, caught up with me regarding Google Glass last week. “I would say that the Explorer edition elevated the entire class of the head worn devices to the top of the conversation, not just in the minds of consumers but also the conversations happening in engineering and product planning groups around the world,” Ballard explained. “Google Glass accelerated the arms race for the next great wearable device; who’s to say Google won’t make that device too?” Ballard asked.

One thing is certain, regardless of who makes the next great wearable device APX-Labs will be enabling enterprise consumers to leverage the value of that device to the fullest extent with its leading smart glasses platform, Skylight.  Ballard, optimistic for the future of wearable technology, also commented, “It’s going to be a fun ride as we move out of the ‘trough of disillusionment (ala Gartner’s hype curve)’ and into the age of real productivity.”

For more on APX Labs check out:

http://techcrunch.com/2015/03/04/google-glass-is-alive-and-well-and-living-in-the-enterprise/

Epson

I tested the Epson  Moverio BT-200 smart glasses with an APX Labs Skylight demo and a Metaio demo at the Wearable TechCon in Santa Clara, CA on Tuesday.  Epson’s first smart glasses product became commercially available in 2011 and is now producing its Moverio smart glasses for enterprise applications.  “We have a huge number of pilots at fortune 100 companies,” explained Eric Mizufuka, Product Manager for Smart Glasses at Epson America.  “They are looking for efficiency gains and/or a safer work environment.”

For more on Epson Moverio check out:

Augumenta

Augumenta provides the ability to interact through smart glasses with gesture control and virtual surfaces.  “For any situation where you have steps you must take in a specific order it improves how they get the job done and reduces the number of mistakes,” Tero Aaltonen, Co-Founder and CEO of Augumenta explained.  In other words, when workers need to perform maintenance or long processes, especially where inputs to determine next steps are required, the solution is positioned to be quite handy (pun intended).

For more on Augumenta check out:

Garmin

Garmin is branching out.  They’re adding new functionality beyond Vivofit in Vivofit 2, Vivosmart and Vivoactive.  Vivoactive is starting to look like a smart watch with its features.

For more on Garmin check out:

Samsung

There are six Samsung watches and my pick if I used a non-iOS phone would be the Gear S. Compare them all here http://www.gizmag.com/samsung-gear-s-vs-gear-live-gear-2-neo-gear-fit-galaxy-gear/33602/  or check out what the world is saying about/to them on each of their Twitter handles:

Others related to this prediction

In addition to those above, I’ve had a look again at all of these companies that were in the Industry Watch.  Here are their links should you be curious to do the same:

 

Prediction #2

Where wearables are silo solutions now, in the future they will be better integrated with other wearables and the wider Internet of Things. Click to view original Industry Watch)

Status

Crossing over device silo barriers will remain a challenge for some time in the wearables space.  There is no clear winner yet in the race to become the leading platform for wearables.  The number of products and companies who are crossing the device silo barrier is increasing.

The industry watch highlighted a number of platforms enabling IoT and/or wearable integration.  The battle is still on for who will win in the wearable platform space.  That topic will be kept for another time and I’ll share below company highlights for those working towards either wearable and wearable integrations or wearable and other IoT integrations.

Company/Product Highlights

EasilyDo

In the time since EasilyDo was included in the WorkTechWork industry watch, the number of EasilyDo users running their scheduling app on Gear S has increased tremendously.  Insight from user behavior is even more interesting and actually smashes through one of the industry trends of adoption, then abandonment of wearable and wearable related technology.  “We’re finding that EasilyDo users using Gear S are substantially more active users over longer periods of time,” said Noam Cadouri, Business Development Manager at EasilyDo.

For more on EasilyDo check out:

ICEdot

The ICEdot Crash Sensor mounts on any helmet and triggers an alarm after an impact or force is detected.  If not answered the ICEdot app on a paired phone will automatically notify emergency contacts with GPS coordinates.

ICEdot continues to make progress crossing the wearable device silo barriers because of an intentional focus on integrated solutions.  “We wanted other products to interact with us,” Chris Zenthoefer, Founder & CEO of ICEdot told me.  Our conversation centered around how his team has focused on integrating ICEdot into a helmet or product so as to minimize the steps consumers must take to use a new safety tool.  “We are not looking to be a silo unto ourselves,” Zenthoefer said.  It is exactly this kind of attitude that will bring wearable industry players success, regardless of your chosen niche.

For more on ICEdot check out:

DrumPants

Don’t believe everything you see on reality TV; all things are not as they seem on Shark Tank episodes.  Co-founders Lei Yu and Tyler Freeman have been marching to the beat of their own drum as they share with the world the value of being able to cross the device silo barrier and trigger action across the wider Internet of Things with the touch of a sensor.  “Customers find it valuable” Yu said “and our investors, including 500 Startups Sean Percival, find it valuable too.”

For more on DrumPants check out:

Nod

I’ve had trouble catching up with Nod with no response to multiple request to Nod CEO Anjali Gill who I met and interviewed regarding their gesture control ring for the original industry watch.  If anyone has an update on Nod let me know.  It would be interesting to learn why their social streams have been relatively silent for some time now, particularly given an SEC filing indicating a $9.2 Million Series A.  I’d say that’s 9.2 million reasons to at least write a 142 characters or less for a tweet.

For more on Nod check out:

Prediction #3

Companies that combine the information of multiple sensors in multiple wearable devices will create more value for their consumers than producers of single wearable devices. (Click to view original Industry Watch).

Status

The challenging part of this prediction, and a place where at least in the near term this prediction may be wrong, is the second use of the word multiple.  It seems that what is happening more is that multiple sensors are being combined into a single wearable and then that omni-sensing wearable creates more value for consumers.

If, however, these sensors are to become as common as zippers eventually there will be sensors in multiple wearables so it is quite possible in the long term this will change.  A few of the products and companies that are using multiple wearables are highlighted here.

Company/Product Highlights

This Place & NeuroSky

To most people taking a picture with Google Glass and posting it on Twitter using only your mind may not seem valuable.  But, the story of quadriplegic Stuart Turner taking his first photograph in over 10 years while experimenting with Google Glass and NeuroSky with This Place’s Mind RDR platform proves the future of crossing the device silo barriers with wearable technology can create value. (see full story by Turner here https://robotsandcake.org/blog/mindrdr-and-google-glass.html)

The Neurosky EEG is a simple to use device that retails for only $79.  “Simplicity makes a huge difference for early adopters,” explained Pedro Vecchi, Director of Product Management at NeroSky when I visited their office in San Jose and experimented with some of their devices and mind games.   This is important so that platforms such as Mind RDR can be used by many people in ways that the developers themselves cannot imagine.

The Mind RDR platform is not limited to the Neurosky EEG and Google Glass.  It also integrates with Android based tablets, phones and wearables. “We are not limited to the Android platform,” explained Russell Plunkett, Innovations Director at This Place.  This Place has several developers using the Mind RDR platform to create MVPs to test ideas to make hardware for specific needs, but of course those ideas are under the radar until they are ready for release. “It’s going to be a long process to find out what we can make to add value to people’s lives,” Plunkett said.  Through that process This Place is focused on “what we can do to show what the future of interfaces will be and also what we can do to spark something for the benefit of mankind.”

For more on This Place & Neurosky check out:

Sensoria

“The fanciest socks in the whole world,” is how Alic Law, Director of Marketing and Business Development for Sensoria described the Sensoria socks in a recent conversation.  Sensoria earned two CES innovation awards this year and also recently earned a special prize for smart clothing at the Wearable Technology World Cup.  Sensoria functions on iOS and Android and was just released on Google Play.  With the latest firmware the anklet battery can run for about six hours of continuous use.  Their socks, which are made in the USA, are currently shipping and a waitlist is available for those who can’t wait to get their hands (and feet) on the gear.

For more on Sensoria check out:

Sensum

Sensum, led with the infectious energy of Gawain Morrison, Founder and CEO, is in the business of quantifying qualitative research by measuring emotional response with wearable technology.  Morrison and his team have used a variety of wearable devices including Polar chest straps, Emotive headsets, Shimmer equipment, Google Glass and other wearable devices.

In many instances research and client requirements involve integrating data from multiple devices.  When asked if multiple wearable devices with multiple sensors would create more value as this prediction prescribes he responded, “for businesses, yes; for consumers, possibly not – if you want medical grade data then more sensors makes sense; if you only want to interact with your latest game or TV show then probably not.”    Morrison believes that for businesses, particularly hard core health and fitness providers, “it’s clear that precise detail on biometric feedback ads value while for consumers it is sufficient to get by with one sensing device and a reliance on algorithms and other contextual information to fill in the blanks.”

For more on Sensum check out:

 

Prediction #4

Wearables will become more intelligent because of developments in sensor technology and the ability to translate data from these sensors into insight via analytics. (Click to view original Industry Watch).

Status

Analytics and sensor tech continue to improve wearable intelligence and examples are shared below.  The most profound portion of the Industry Watch for this piece was this: Deep learning may find attributes in quantified self data that humans simply cannot detect.  (July 31, 2014).

Company/Product Highlights

Biosensing Wearables Landscape by Rock Health

I caught up with Teresa Wang, Strategy Manager at Rock Health for a conversation regarding the Rock Health BioSensing Wearables Landscape.  The landscape itself is not changing much with only a few new solutions being developed in the long tail of the landscape (see the original details of the landscape here).  “We’re seeing less new companies entering the space.  It’s a crowded market with lots of competition,” Wang said. “It’s a very challenging place to solve the problems in the space and to master hardware, software and design at the same time.”

For more on the landscape check out:

Cityzen Sciences, Cityzen Data

Cityzen Sciences and Cityzen Data are two separate companies that came from the same roots.   “Cityzen Sciences has the ability to integrate sensors into fabric and Cityzen Data has the tools to analyze wearable data,” explained Vincent Ethier, Head of North America for Cityzen Group USA.  In this way separate teams with similar objectives can focus on doing what they do best and people can get the most intelligence out of fabric generated wearable data.

For more on Cityzen check out:

Whistle

Whistle, who recently raised $15 million and acquired Tagg, is the leader in the pet wearable space.  Between Whistle and Tag, over 100,000 products have been sold.  Wearables for pets will be successful because these products solve a real problem, the problem of losing a pet.  “Consumers expect to solve that loss problem with GPS,” said Steven Eidelman, Co-Founder and COO of Whistle.  “Pet owners assume pets with microchips have GPS but it (the microchip) does not.”  This is where Whistle comes in to save the day and find your favorite furry friend.

For more on Whistle check out:

If you have further interest in pet wearables check out:

Empath Analytics

Empath Analytics was mentioned in the industry watch for this prediction; however, the Empath website is down and I was unable to reach anyone for comment.  If you have any information on Empath please reach out.

Prediction 5

The cost of sensors will continue to go down, thus enabling more uses and innovation with sensors in wearable devices. (Click to view original Industry Watch).

https://worktechwork.wordpress.com/2014/08/01/wearables-predictions-who-to-watch-for-prediction-5/

Status

Prices of smart clothing have not changed much since the prices were noted in the Industry Watch last August. One of the interesting aspects of wearable products is that the piece of hardware or clothing or whatever has the sensor embedded really in and of itself has little value; it is the use of the data generated by the wearable that generates the value.  While prices of the fitness apparel have not gone down, the value generated by improved analytics and other aspects of software have made the product offerings more valuable.

Company/Product Highlights

I discussed wearable sensor cost trends with many people.  Pierre-Alexandre Fournier, CEO at Hexoskin shared an excellent insight regarding the projected long-term price decrease.  “Wearable technology will become a normal component of clothing, like zippers,” said Fournier.  “In 1920 a zipper cost between $1 and $2 which is between $10-20 in today’s dollars.  You can get a pair of pants with a zipper for that much today.”

Below are links to many of the other clothing apparel sites.  A full price review is planned later on (anyone who wants to look at this together let me know).  One note is that Sensoria, whose prices were originally quoted at their now expired pre-order discount price, is the only company in wearable sport apparel that was included in the Industry Watch whose prices have appeared to have risen.

Prediction #6

Wearable devices will need less frequent charging because of better energy storage and lower energy consumption. (Click to view original Industry Watch).

Status

The battery technology in use in most wearables today is about 20 years old.  This is changing on account of research by energy enthusiasts like researcher and Stanford University doctoral candidate Wesley Guangyuan Zheng.  We caught up recently to discuss the future of energy storage, specifically as it applies to wearable technology.  Zheng explained he “is working on a particular lithium metal anode which has the highest specific capacity among all lithium anode materials.”  And when he says highest specific capacity he means being able to produce batteries with 300 to 400% improvement.  Imagine the recently announced Apple Watch with a battery life that jumps from 18 hours to 50 to 70 hours.

For more on this research by Zheng and his associates check out:

Company/Product Highlights

PsiKick

PsiKick continues to work to enable the utility of what is commonly known as “leakage current” to be usable in the sub-threshold processing regime.  This is quite challenging as circuits can stop working when voltage is turned too low.  In an IoT driven world where there will potentially need to be as many batteries as there are IoT devices, minimizing energy consumption is a must.  Moreover when it comes to our wearables, we want the battery to last.

PsiKick Co-Founder and CEO Brendan Richardson explained, “PsiKick is able to reduce energy consumption through efforts in three areas: sub-threshold processing, building super-efficient radios and thinking about it as an entire system.”  Wearables designers tend to address energy consumption by adjusting radio, micro controller and power management systems individually.  A systemic rather than a whack a mole approach to reducing energy consumption is a major enabler in the fight to keep our wearables batteries from going dead.  “We control every input and every output.  When you do that you can do amazing things,” Richardson explained.

For more about PsiKick check out:

ARM

ARM continues to further development to increase performance.  The Cortex-A72 consumes 75% less energy while improving performance 3.5 times over their 2014 devices.

For more about ARM check out:

Prediction #7

People are going to use wearable technology to make a statement about who they are. (Click to view original Industry Watch).

Status

Wearables are becoming more fashionable as wearable designers recognize wearable hardware design is different than other hardware design.  There have been plenty of stories on this topic during the past year, including stories around the movement of people from major fashion companies to companies producing wearable technology.  People will continue to make statements with wearables.

Company/Product Highlights

Apple Watch

A simple statement from the Apple Watch Design page: There’s and Apple Watch for Everyone.

https://www.apple.com/watch/design/

When you buy a watch for $10,000 you make a statement about who you are.

Pre-order April 10, 2015; available in stores April 24, 2015.  https://www.apple.com/watch

Jon Lou

A new startup to look at in this space is Jon Lou.  Lead by Founder & CEO Theodora Koullias, Jon Lou focuses on bringing well-designed and high quality products to people who face the need to be digitally connected, fully charged and fashion forward.  Koullias is building a luxury brand.  She believes the industry needs to be innovated upon and that luxury brands need “more cross-pollination of fashion with other artists, whether these be musicians, industrial designers, cinematographers, or sculptors.  These are the visionaries, the creative people, who will keep the industry alive.”  It is this open thinking that will make wearable enable more people to make a statement about who they are with their wearable tech.

For more about Jon Lou check out:

Wiacts Sense

In many cases function is more important than aesthetic, especially when your target is B2B not B2C.  Wicats is no exception, but I cannot say much more at this time.  “We are still in stealth mode and we will be at SXSW presenting Saturday and Sunday,” Wiacts Sense CEO Yaser Masoudnia told me Monday.  Keep an eye on this one.

UICO

When it comes to people who work or play in rough environments, wearables need to be durable.  In environments where gloves are used, dirt and moisture are present and temperatures are extreme, people do not want to make a statement about who they are with any of the shiny smart watches announced or on the market today.  “Wearables stop working in the cold, heat, dirt and wet,” Bahar Wadia, Co-Founder and CEO of UICO shared with me at Wearable TechCon while discussing their duraTOUCH touchscreens for wearables.  “We’re making wearables work where they are needed and we have about a million durable, industrial or fitness devices with our technology in use today.”

For more on UICO check out:

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. (Click to view original Industry Watch).

Status

Many discussions regarding this prediction have involved Moore’s Law.  So much of what enables the wearable industry to even exist is because of Moore’s Law.  Apple announced Research Kit on March 9 and it appears that the research will all be iOS app and watch driven.  This means that millions of people will be able to participate in medical research and no one has to know a thing about it.

Company/Product Highlights

mCube

Wearables need components with small form factors.  In November mCube unveiled the world’s smallest eCompass and iGyro sensors with mCube’s monolithic single-chip MEMS.  “mCube has an inherent advantage in how we assemble our monolithic single-chip MEMS,” said Sean Chen, Vice President of Marketing & Business Development at mCube.  “This results in a smaller footprint and lower energy consumption, the two most desirable attributes in both wearable technology and the broader Internet of Moving Things.”

For more about mCube check out:

Medical Wearable Solutions

Discreetly sensing and then being able to take action for medical situations is important.  These applications of wearable technology, though, are very niche applications and the secrets are closely guarded until intellectual property is protected.  That being said, when I met with Dr. Vahid Sahiholnasab, CEO and Founder of Medical Wearable Solutions, we did discuss one of the solutions his team is working on.  “We have a device that detects when an anxiety attack is coming for patients with anxiety disorders and phobias,” Sahiholnasab said.  “Patients can then take action based on certain alerts.”

For more about Medical Wearable Solutions check out:

Prediction #9

The debate around ownership of wearables-generated data will continue. (Click to view original Industry Watch).

Status

Pierre-Alexandre Fournier, CEO at Hexoskin who shared a great insight regarding zippers for Prediction 5 also had an interesting perspective regarding manufacturers of digital cameras and digital photos, the data the device creates.  “Information recorded by wearables for health should not be different than pictures from digital cameras.  It’s obvious for us the owner of the data is the person using the shirt; it’s the only way to go.”

Obviously not everyone agrees and wearable players are on both sides of the argument with privacy policies that give them full ownership of every byte of data which contrast completely with Fournier’s view.  When it comes to privacy many questions come up.  What happens when an employer health care program provides a fitness tracker that generates data that can be used to check whether or not you’re sick when you call in sick?

Company/Product Highlights

We’re going light on the highlights here, partially because I realize if you’ve read this far you’re a trooper, and partially because just as much as has been written on this post up to this point could be written on this topic alone.  It is an incredibly important and personal topic to every human who will generate data from wearables.

One of my concerns is that if mistrust builds in this industry, knee-jerk legislation will cripple the ability to create value in this space.   I was pleased to make the acquaintance of Marcel Van Galen, Founder of the Qiy Foundation last year.  “In the Netherlands when we’re talking wearables, the privacy topic pops up immediately,” Van Galen shared.  Contrast this to the USA where the topic does not come up immediately and is often pushed to the side.  Van Galen, as well as many other Europeans believe “people should be in control over their data and the data they produce.”

Take a look at https://www.qiy.nl/ and subscribe to the quarterly Qiy notes, which actually was just published today.  You can also find more information at https://www.qiyfoundation.org/about-qiy/.

Prediction #10

Contextual awareness will be enabled by wearable device adoption and become the next big thing in marketing and customer experience. (Click to view original Industry Watch).

Status

Wearables, on account of many points already covered, are getting much more contextually aware.  In transit or stationary, asleep or awake, wearables know with a fair amount of accuracy what we are doing.

Company/Product Highlights

Skully Systems

Having the right information at the right time is the heart of context.  Skully Systems, producer of the world’s smartest motorcycle helmet, is my favorite wearable providing contextually aware information to their consumers.  With the recent close of an $11 Million Series A, promising describes the future of Skully products.

For more on Skully Systems check out:

Audience

Since its acquisition of Sensor Platforms in July 2014, Audience developed a new multi-sensory processer, the N100, and announced it at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last week.  The N100 combines the voice awareness of Audience’s VoiceQ signal processing and the sensor hub processing and motion awareness of Audience’s MotionQ.  The combined solution makes the interaction between humans and devices more seamless and more contextual.

For more on Audience check out:

Moves App

When it comes to activity trackers the year has gone by without any compelling reasons for me to purchase a wrist worn activity tracker due on large part to the Moves App.  The app is available for free download for both iOS and Android smart phones.  I’m not sure if it will be completely replaced by or just compliment the activity tracking offering from the Apple Watch but I will be comparing them at least in the near term while the watch is tested.

For more on the Moves App check out:

Final Word

The past several weeks flew by with countless coffees, lunches, phone calls and meetings with wearables industry experts, all of which cannot be represented here.  Thank you to all who shared your insights and experiences.

Editing notes:  3/15/15 the estimated battery life for Sensoria anklet was incorrectly stated to last more than 8 hours; it is tested for about six. 6/10/15 added post editing note in Financing section regarding BlackRock/Jawbone.

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