Thursday, August 08, 2013

Wearable Devices, Mobile Apps, Sensors and Clothing Companies

Nike FuelBand
As I was working this morning I become annoyed that my Nike FuelBand kept rubbing against my MacBook Pro keyboard while I was typing.  The Nike FuelBand is my first wearable (M2M or IoT) device.  It is a bluetooth enabled sensor inside a wristband.  The sensor has an accelerometer that records the level of activities you participate in during a 24 hour period.  When you press a button it syncs its recorded data with your iPhone.  The iPhone in turn uploads the FuelBand data into your Nike account in the cloud.

Once the data enters your mobile app on the iPhone and/or your account in the cloud, it analyzes it against past and future activities, recorded goals and other measurements.  On nearly every screen you are encouraged to be social, and to share your activity data with friends, family and the Nike social family.  There is also a whole lot of gamification going on.  You can escape and survive all kinds of dangers presented in a game on the Nike cloud site by keeping your activities up and meeting your goals.

One of the challenges, however, is the Nike FuelBand does not have a GPS tracking system (although your iPhone does), nor does it know you are engaged in certain activities like riding a bike, either on the road or a stationary one.  There is no method for manually entering activities that are not easily monitored by the Nike FuelBand.  I solved a few of those problems, after a little research, by integrating the Nike FuelBand app and account, with my Nike Running app (which uses my iPhone GPS capability).  I could then precisely track times, distances, paces and routes. Both the FuelBand and the Running app are integrated through my Nike cloud account so they can both access the same data and monitor my activities accurately.

I was, however, still faced with the problem of recording and tracking exercises and activities that are not accurately captured by the Nike FuelBand or the Nike Running app on my iPhone.  I eventually discovered a solution, however, by finding that I could integrate my Lose It! mobile app with my Nike cloud account as well.  Lose It! is a great app for manually tracking calories consumed and exercises completed.  Lose It! does not have its own hardware or sensors, but integrating it (a simple check box) with my Nike cloud based account enabled it to share data I manually entered, and for the Lose It! app to read and integrate sensor data from my Nike Running app and my Nike FuelBand (wearable sensor).

Let's review the components:
  • iPhone and GPS sensor
  • Nike FuelBand (bluetooth enabled accelerometer sensor in a wristband that communicates with your iPhone) to monitor activity levels
  • Nike Running iPhone app that uses the iPhone GPS to track distance, speed, pace, etc.
  • Nike cloud based account to aggregate, analyze, report on and archive the data
  • Lose It! iPhone app that enables you to manually enter foods/calories and exercises.  It can be integrated with your Nike cloud based account so exercises, activity levels and running data can be more accurate and shared.
I believe the wearable mobile device and exercise/activity apps market will mature and these disparate capabilities will soon converge into a single wearable device and a full functional app.  Today, however, us early adopters have the fun of discovering their limitations, reviewing each update, and finding work-a-rounds.

It is quite interesting to me, that a clothing/shoe company, Nike in this case, is so involved in high tech sensors, mobile hardware, cloud based solutions, social and gaming platforms and analytics.  It is the beginnings of the digitization of clothing.  I know Under Armor is also deeply involved in these digital transformations.

These clothing companies understand that their brands are increasingly going to be judged by the quality of their digital presence, rather than just the quality of their physical designs and materials.  It is a different world that we live in today.   One that we should all be pondering.



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Kevin Benedict, Head Analyst for Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC) Cognizant
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and SMAC analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.