There is something wrong with wearables today and its an age old problem with technology. The problem is the user.
I love wearable technology and health tracking ( I am writing a blog about it for a start! ) and so I have three devices I use for tracking myself. My Fitbit for walking and sleeping, my TomTom Multisport watch for swimming and running and my mobile for cycling. My TomTom watch can actually do cycling but I like using the Strava app and the social aspect of it. However, on numerous times my tracking has failed and it was entirely my fault.
Allow me to demonstrate
Swimming – I train at a triathlon club and I wear my TomTom watch. I jump in the pool, get chatting to folks and then the coach tells us what to do. Now on a good day I set my watch to swimming mode and then select Go! It is however all too easy to select swimming and forget to activate it when its time to start. Once on the way with the lesson it feels really awkward to stop and fiddle on with it. I may be alone in this but also it feels like if I have missed tracking a large chunk of my session there is little point starting.
Running – Less issues with forgetfulness here but more ones born of frustration. If I do my warm up and then activate the GPS its tedious waiting for a satellite lock ( although I always like the sound of that! ) so I have to make a point of remembering the GPS aspect then start my warm up.
Cycling – Using the Strava app its a fine art trying to start the tracking ( and hence the clock starting ) whilst balancing on your bike and quickly stowing it somewhere safe. Seconds are usually lost for me in this process. The same at the end of the ride. Now if you know and love your Strava cycling you’ll know people love to get a King Of The Mountain award, often referred to as a K.O.M. The competition for these is fierce and split seconds can make a difference to first or second place. For me a KOM is a bit of a pipe dream right now but some folks care a lot about it.
Sleeping – Lots can go wrong here. I could get fed up and take it off before bed. Forgetting to activate sleep mode is another common mistake or even forgetting to tell the Fitbit I am now awake.
So in every use case the technology is reliant on me. To tell it when to stop and start. To tell it what activity I am performing.
This is what is wrong with wearables today and this is the fundamental change that needs to occur. We need to get past the point of having to tell the device to do these things and for it to know we are doing it.
I firmly believe that the tech giants like Apple and Google have enough sensors and hardware in their portfolio to make it work. No longer will your health tracker need you to tell it what you are doing. You put it on your wrist and via an array of sensors it can work out where you are, what speed you are travelling, if you are underwater or not and so on. Your device silently collects all this data and then its ready at a moments notice via the cloud to look at on your mobile or computer.
The moment wearables take no effort on our part to use is the time when they will truly have mass market desirability.