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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Internet of Things is also the Internet of Wearables

The Internet of Things is also the Internet of Wearables

A new category has emerged over the years and it’s all about wearables. To me it’s the Internet of Wearables or IofW as we push the data into apps and the cloud and use analytics to better manage our fitness.

At a recent developer conference it was inspiring to see a table full of smart watches and wearable fitness trackers to play around with. Each had a common purpose but varied in form and function to deliver the same result. We are really at the tipping point wear the onslaught of Chinese products in the sub $30 range will be available at discount stores everywhere.

The biggest complaint is that you do need to be prepared to charge your device every few days because the small form factor means a small li-on battery. I found out the hard way when I went to Japan and forgot my special charging cradle for my Samsung Gear watch. I could not for the life of me find the cradle in Akhibara or Wilsons so I was not able to ever know what time it was. I used a compass and a sundial instead.

Let’s take a look at what’s the latest offerings timed for the Christmas season.

High End Wearables

Years ago Furla an Italian leather bag maker came out with a bag for travellers that included a built in light. The Boarding Bag as it was called did not start a trend.
Now Ralph Lauren has announced its “Ricky Bag with a Light”. The Ricky bag is $3500 and when you add a built in LED light and also a USB charger it now becomes a $5000 bag.  This is luxury item and is hand made in Italy with the finest leather, gold hardware and purple nappa satin liner. The artisanal craftsman takes at least 12 hours to stitch this together buy hand and maybe a soldering iron as well. Naturally, Ralph will have you order this item as a special order which is just fine with its well-heeled consumer. Now the fashionistas have power to go and can look forward to plugging their bag in at the end of the day.
But the House of Ralph Lauren has been busy in their lab experimenting and prototyping their high tech Polo Tech shirt. Sensors and conductive silver coated thread are embedded to capture the wearer’s heart rate, breathing and stress levels. This is all game changing with more products from other manufacturers surely to follow.

Aspinal of London also has a wonderful pebble leather tote bag (again made in Italy by artisanal craftsmen) that comes with an optional usb charger in a leather pouch. Not so creative as it really is a Mophie battery pack and Tumi did the same thing with their travel charger I bought 5 years ago. What is innovative is how fashion designers are embracing new technology and implementing them in a way that can enhance the consumers brand experience.

I heard rumors that Tory Burch was also looking into technology and did announce a Fitbit arrangement housed in a brass bracelet. I think she will add sensors in her iconic line of flats (shoes) soon.
Diesel partnered with Samsung with their version of the Gear S Smartwatch. Vertu does the same in enhancing cellular devices (notably the Blackberry)

Tommy Hilfiger not to be left behind has a solar panel jacket with built in battery and I expect Burton to do the same for snowboarders. This is creativity at its best and forces better thinking and better design for the consumer.

I look forward to Roots Canada working on a solar powered toque, charger equipped Muskoka weekender bag and even a campfire series of usb battery equipped sweat pants.

At Dreamforce 14, announced his smartphone cuff that had some really awesome features but also included battery equipped clothing and a speaker equipped backpack. This type of creativity is to be applauded. also announced a sensor in its shoe line that its sensor also measures weight (using a pressure sensor) and can integrate with a fitness app that can coach you through a work out. This is interesting as the technology is being implemented in a better way to assist the consumer in getting fit

Even Dewalt and Milwaukee are doing wearables with their heating element equipped and usb battery equipped winter jackets. Just what the trades needs to survive the harsh Toronto weather on the job site.
I expect to see a lot more in the Internet of Wearables #IofW marketplace in the coming year.

So where does that leave the rest of the traditional wearables? Lots to choose from and the price points are dropping to where consumers will buy one instead of filling up their car with gas.

These devices continue the same story of counting steps, calories burned, some monitor sleep or track heart rates, or even gps enabled location information. Push it to your smartphone or even into the cloud for that matter. Then take the watch which adds the time function, Evernote and PebbleBucks along with the fitness apps. The smartphone does this too now so what do I do with my Fitbit? My Fitbit holder cracked under normal use so I think my mom’s dog will enjoy it more than I will if he doesn’t chew it first. With several smartphones and watches to play with I am not sure I need a purpose built gadget to monitor how many steps I walked that day.

The foundation is set for these devices to measure ekg (Nyomi does it) and blood sugar or urine levels and help manage our health care in the future to come. I applaud this innovation and how it promotes better fitness for its wearer.

Lets take a look at some of these Activity tracker wearables:

They have several models based on functionality and form and do a fantastic job at measuring steps, distance, stairs, sleep and calories burned. They integrate with various smartphones and have a great dashboard. I love how simple the One charger is. However, there have been complaints about quality. The ability to just clip it on is a popular feature as well as a little display. Customer service was no help in getting it fixed

This is an arm band worn on the upper arm and also does temperature and movement tracking. By adding the additional sensors over its competitors it does offer a more accurate calories burned calculation.

Their bracelets are also popular and also have created a stir as they gave users a rash. They have no display but can vibrate to tell you to get up off your chair and move around.

Withings Pulse 02
This device offers some creative elements such as altitude, pulse and can even estimate blood oxygen levels.

Garmin Vivofit
They also have an action camera so why not a wearable. The really wonderful feature of this device is the battery is said to last a year (all other devices do need regular charging every few days). The display is very useful and it can be used in the shower or while swimming.

The Nike Fuel caused a stir with its iPhone app and sensor placed in the shoe but the FuelBand edition offers some enhancements and is worn on your wrist instead. I tried the shoe sensor but returned it for a better Fitbit so I can use it with any shoe until the Fitbit build quality started falling apart.

.Microsoft Band

Wow they also have added a cloud based health app that works on android, iOS or windows. It crunches the data for you and is planned to offer proactive actionable insights and  advice. This could be the killer app we have been waiting for. There is a heartrate monitor, GPS and a  UV sensor as well. Plus it adds email and Cortana as well.

Apple Watch

No clue yet as it is not available in stores yet but it will need to be charged up at the end of every day.

As a cyclist, I have not looked at any technology or apps that can improve the rider experience beyond the cycling computer. I will investigate and report back in another blogspot post.

So what does this all mean?

It means you have things to by that can be great gifts or stocking stuffers that will help motivate the user to better fitness and it will fund future work on wearables and IofW to predict health issues, manage our health or help cure our ailments. We are still at an early age with lots of upside for innovation to occur.

We are able to provide real time information from your wearable (those that are 4G or Blue Tooth or Wi-Fi equipped) and plot it on a map and use it to highlight your Facebook status so when you get  text you can double flick your wrist and bleat out a response with a Google Map link showing you are running along the Santa Monica Pier, sweating profusely and unable to take calls at this time. I would not mind a wearable that will figure out that I have fallen asleep, turn the house alarm on, turn off all forgotten lights, lower the NEST thermostat, and put my smartphone on do not disturb and have the refrigerator do an inventory check and text me a shopping list when I awake. Trust me the technology is there and people are able to do just that today. I would like to add the app that says “we noticed in your urine that you had a vitamin D deficiency” and add that to my IofT powered smoothie machine to add some vitamins to my drink. The party animals among us will enjoy the top selling “You Got a Hangover” app informing you upon wake up that you are hung over and your smoothie will help alleviate the symptoms before brunch time.

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