Wearable Computing: It's the Data Exchange That Matters

David Wagner, Managing Editor | 5/15/2014 | 18 comments

David Wagner
Wearables are taking a beating right now, because of the rather tepid response in the market. But the era of Wearables 2.0 is on the horizon, and it already holds lessons -- not only for people in that market, but for anyone thinking about the Internet of Things. At the crux of Wearables 2.0 is the data exchange between user and product.

The wearable devices with the most penetration right now are exercise-related ones, mostly wristbands and pedometers. The knock on them (and why Nike has had to lay off many people in its wearables division) has always been that no one wants to spend a lot of money on a standalone piece of hardware. There's a good reason for that: For the most part, early-generation wearables only record data. They don't exchange it.

This data collection is great for scientists. Health researchers are getting larger datasets than ever, and they're using the sets to gain deep insights into what low-level activity means for our overall health. Until recently, scientists could track high-level activity rather easily. For lower-level activity, they had to rely on surveys.

All that data collection only goes so far for those shelling out a couple hundred bucks for a wristband measuring their activity. So a new generation of wearables is giving data back to the users

Here's one example: Jawbone, which makes a wearable fitness band, has joined forces with Automatic, which makes software that tracks cars. They're creating a software layer for the exercise band that does a surprisingly effective thing: It tells how much weight the user would have lost by walking to a destination instead of driving there. The band can tell whether the user is in the car (by measure the speed the user is traveling). And it measures the distance traveled in steps, so the user can see the effect of being more active.

That product, specifically, sounds pretty miserable to me. All I need is more guilt for driving everywhere. Now, imagine if these companies also partnered with a company that told you how much carbon you used for the same trip, along with how many trees you would need to plant to make up for it. More guilt. Imagine if the device also tracked the gas you used and the money you could have saved for your vacation instead. More guilt. And imagine if it constantly told you how close we were to depleting the world's oil supply, and how much nearer you brought us to peak oil. More guilt.

All that guilt adds up to the kind of information that may prompt people to change their lifestyle. Maybe they start walking, or they buy a Tesla, or they get solar panels. Whatever. The point is that, suddenly, a product that did one thing (track data) now does a more important thing (exchange data).

Now, imagine the same data exchange concept applied to a shirt. Don't we all have a lucky shirt? I wear the same shirt to play softball every week. I'm convinced I play better in that shirt. What if my clothes compiled my batting average in every shirt I wore to play softball? Or what if we applied it instead to the game of love, and the clothes told me how often I got a second date when I wore a lucky shirt on a first date?

The need for such user-centric data exchange isn't limited to wearable computing. It could take form in any Internet of Things device. Early IoT devices are being designed to do one thing (smart thermostats that track a home's temperature, for example). The 2.0 move is to pull datasets to contextualize and exchange data and processes to add value.

If you're entering the Internet of Things arena, you can't stop at data gathering or performing a process. That's only the beginning. You need to think about how to provide and contextualize data to help improve users' lives. If you aren't doing that, you're just offering an expensive, single-use product.

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tekedge   Wearable Computing: It's the Data Exchange That Matters   5/30/2014 11:59:57 PM
wearable technology
A lot needs to be done to make it more popular
Henrisha   Wearable Computing: It's the Data Exchange That Matters   5/27/2014 1:51:46 PM
Re: and....
You are right, Hammad. I think the wearable devices that have been released are lacking in one way or another. Whether it's functionality or issues with design, current wearable tech leaves a lot to be desired.
Hammad Masood   Wearable Computing: It's the Data Exchange That Matters   5/26/2014 4:14:00 PM
Re: Fore!
So are we predicting a different wearable device for a different purpose ? I was working on Samsung Gear and I found limited functionalities with it. May be some universal or rich feature set oriented wearable device is needed.
Hammad Masood   Wearable Computing: It's the Data Exchange That Matters   5/26/2014 4:08:08 PM
Re: and....
I believe apart from cost, these wearable devices are still in infancy. They still need better application hub and better features.
SunitaT   Wearable Computing: It's the Data Exchange That Matters   5/24/2014 2:18:52 PM
Re: Wearable Computing: It's the Data Exchange That Matters
It sounds rather unpractical to wear very many computing devices so as to help you track something. Even though having several computing devices is useful, it is also tiresome. I think it would be far much better if someone wears a single device that keeps track of around 5 sets of data at the same time. This will in turn enhance data exchange.   With the availability of data exchange gadgets, there would be an increase in the number of people responding to wearables
SunitaT   Wearable Computing: It's the Data Exchange That Matters   5/22/2014 1:39:37 PM
Re: Wearable Computing: It's the Data Exchange That Matters
Even though they might all be very useful, it would be impractical and rather cumbersome too, to wear several computing devices as the same time so that each of them can track one thing or the other. A more practical option would be to wear a single device that can keep track of, say, 4 or 5 sets of data at the same time and many more people would be buying wearable devices today if they could find such gadgets. Unfortunately there are very few, if any, similar devices in the market today and this is why the response to wearables has been lower than anticipated.
SunitaT   Wearable Computing: It's the Data Exchange That Matters   5/22/2014 1:28:08 PM
Re: Wearable Computing: It's the Data Exchange That Matters
I believe that if most of the wearable devices that are on the market today were priced a little lower, more people would buy them. Not to dispute the facts that you raised in this piece but it is worth pointing out the fact that the greatest deterrent to the expansion of the market for wearables right now is not so much their inefficiency or lack of value but simply because most customers still do not believe that the devices are worth the amounts that are charged.
kstaron   Wearable Computing: It's the Data Exchange That Matters   5/22/2014 9:08:04 AM
motivation through metrics
I've got one of those wearable pedometers which collects a lot of data for me about steps and stairs and so on. But the reason I really bought it and still use it is because, I can use that data and compare it to friends with the same pedometer, which usually helps my motivation. I can extrapolate my sleep cycle with apps to determine when I really should br going to bed. i'm sure there are other apps out there that work using the data I gather to let me know, how many steps it took to work off that donut and such too. The data is great,and with fitness is one step in the overall motivation to get healthy, but i do agree that it's the exchange that matters. The more your wearable can tell you, or do for you, the better.
LuFu   Wearable Computing: It's the Data Exchange That Matters   5/21/2014 12:35:57 PM
Following the sports-related application, as a golfer, I can see the benefit for a wearable computing caddy device. In real time it could calculate distance, wind, slope, ground conditions, hazard mapping, pin placement, swing, putting stroke, and countless other factors that come into play when making a shot - essentially advising me about the best shot to make. It could also correct my slice, hook, and muff.

Let's say this actually improves my score. I question if it would actually make me a better golfer if I rely on a computer. And ultimately, would I enjoy the game as much?
impactnow   Wearable Computing: It's the Data Exchange That Matters   5/20/2014 1:05:28 PM
Re: Wearable Computing
I hear you but to be useful we need some two way interaction or what's the point?
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