We have recently seen a sizable market haul made by wearable devices, primarily focused around fitness and wellbeing of the wearer, but the situation may not be as ‘healthy’ as it first seems.
Even though the wearers may have experienced the benefits of their body functions and exercise levels being constantly monitored, the associated data that needs to be entered manually, such as food and liquid intake has proven to be rather tedious.
But this alone does not explain why Nike, one of the leaders in the wearable fitness field with its FuelBand has decided to cease production of the device, The company said it will continue to support existing FuelBands, and its team will work to adapt the software for more platforms, but that does not explain how it could simply turn its back on a smartband market estimated at 17 million in 2014, rising to 47 million by 2017.
Perhaps rumors they are working with Apple on the imminent release of the iWatch is the real reason for the move, and Apple certainly gave strong hints of this with the release of information on the upcoming its IoS 8 operating system and its Healthbook app.
But we have been hearing rumors of a super-wearable from Apple for so long now it’s almost become an urban myth! The yet unseen device has been rumored to monitor heart rates, blood sugars, anxiety levels and heaven knows what else, supported by the reported by some clever software called Healthbook.
The app is also said to allow users to enter details about their medication so they can be reminded to take pills at scheduled times. This is likely integrate with iOS’s existing Reminders application and to take multiple user interface cues from Apple’s own Passbook app, which is software for storing loyalty cards, coupons, and other materials normally stored in physical wallets.
If there is such a device on the way it is sure to do deliver something extraordinary, in keeping with Apple’s mantra, but it looks like Apple is building a complete, and no doubt closely guarded, ecosystem around the device.
Google’s Android OS has been utilized by many other ‘wanabes’ in the wearable field but has proved to be a little unwieldy for some. Samsung has stood out as an early mover in the wearable device stakes has even developed its own OS for the task, Tizen.
You can bet it will not sit idly by and allow Apple to storm the market, but without knowing what Apple really has lined up it may be investing in the wrong areas. In any case, it is certainly shaping up to be another Samsung vs. Apple battle for market share and we can expect to see massive innovation that won’t simply be health and well-being related.
Currently the wearables need to communicate via another device like a smartphone or PC to interact with apps and custom websites, but how long before they talk direct to cloud-based services that will be able to not only track a person but warn them of impending health issues, even locate them, if a medical emergency befalls them?
And here lies a golden opportunity for CSPs that want to be part of the personal IoT revolution that is just starting to warm up. The market will be lost to Apple and Samsung acting as OTT players if they just sit back and watch these innovations evolve without acting.
CSPs can partner with other wearable innovators like Fitbit and Flip, a colorful plastic band embedded with a tiny SIM card and aimed at children. It can call up to five preset numbers. Essentially a GPS tracking device, it was created by Norwegian entrepreneur Sten Kirkbak in 2009 after his young son was lost for 30 heart-stopping minutes in a shopping mall.
But the big boys will be the main threat or opportunity. They may opt for a Kindle-like approach where arrangements are made with multiple network operators worldwide to carry lightweight wearable traffic or they may opt for exclusive deals with selected networks they have dealt with before.
CSPs that ignored the Apple iPhone game changer the first time won’t be willing to be caught again but Apple, and even Samsung, will certainly now have the upper hand in any bulk data traffic negotiations. Or will customers be allowed to connect via their existing data plans?
Something tells me it won’t be that easy, and the integration of wearable device, app, cloud services and availability of expert advice and emergency assistance will make for a very powerful ecosystem that will draw in many the interested parties like medical insurers, employers and even government agencies.
Are we really ready for this?