I Guess Wearables Are a Thing

June 20th, 2014 5 Comments

For what seems like ages, the noise around wearable technology has been building, but until recently, I’ve been skeptical about widespread adoption.

Not anymore, wearables are a thing, even without an Apple device to lead the way.

Last week, Noel (@noelportugal) and I attended the annual conference of the Oracle HCM Users Group (@ohugupdates); the Saturday before the conference, we showed off some of our wearable demos to a small group of customers in a seminar hosted by Oracle Applications User Experience.

As usual, we saturated the Bluetooth spectrum with our various wearables.

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This doesn’t even include Noel’s Glass and Pebble.

The questions and observations of the seminar attendees showed a high level of familiarity with wearables of all types, not just fitness bands, but AR glasses and other, erm, wearable gadgets. A quick survey showed that several of them had their own wearables, too.

Later in the week, chatting up two other customers, I realized that one use case I’d thought was bogus is actually real, the employee benefits plus fitness band story.

In short, employers give out fitness bands to employees to promote healthy behaviors and sometimes competition; the value to the organization comes from an assumption that the overall benefit cost goes down for a healthier employee population. Oh, and healthy people are presumably happier, so there’s that too.

At a dinner, I sat between two people, who work for two different employers, in very different verticals; they both were wearing company-provided fitness trackers, one a Garmin device, the other a FitBit. And they both said the devices motivated them.

So, not a made-up use case at all.

My final bit of anecdotal evidence from the week came during Jeremy’s (@jrwashley) session. The room was pretty packed, so I decided to do some Bluetooth wardriving using the very useful Bluetooth 4.0 Scanner app, which has proven to be much more than a tool for finding my lost Misfit Shine.

From a corner of the room, I figured my scan covered about a third of the room.

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That’s at least six wearables, five that weren’t mine. I can’t tell what some of the devices are, e.g. One, and devices like Google Glass and the Pebble watch won’t be detected by this method. We had about 40 or so people in the room, so even without scanning the entire room, that’s a lot of people rocking wearables.

If you’re not impressed by my observations, maybe some fuzzy app-related data will sway you. From a TechCrunch post:

A new report from Flurry Analytics shows that health and fitness apps are growing at a faster rate than the overall app market so far in 2014. The analytics firm looked at data from more than 6,800 apps in the category on the iPhone and iPad and found that usage (measured in sessions) is up 62% in the last six months compared to 33% growth for the entire market, an 87% faster pace.

This data comes just as Apple and Google aim to boost the ecosystem for fitness apps and wearables with HealthKit and Google Fit, both of which aim to make it easy for wearable device manufacturers to share their data and app developers to use that data to make even better apps.

Of course, if/when Apple and Google make their plays, wearables will only get more prevalent.

So, your thoughts, about wearables, your own and other people’s, corporate wellness initiatives, your own observations, belong in the comments.


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5 Responses to “I Guess Wearables Are a Thing”

  1. Ultan Ó Broin (Apps-UX) Says:

    Oh, more wearables coming. Google Fit on June 26. Should be well road-tested with all that free food… seriously, I can’t wait to try it out. Running out of body real estate, but the search for a killer fitness app goes on… part of the problem is that the notion of fitness itself varies…

  2. Ultan Ó Broin (Apps-UX) Says:

    On a more serious note, enterprise methodology or otherwise… the use case for wellness in the enterprise is very well. But implementation will require stakeholder buyoff and a LOT of customization and configuration. Enterprise and individual privacy and security is up there as ever. And ever present: http://hcmwellness.com/fb/app

  3. Jake Says:

    @Ultan: Serious athletes wear serious gear like those Polar heart rate monitors. Fitness trackers, as you know, are notoriously inaccurate and vary wildly among themselves.

    These are good-enough devices, not terribly accurate, but don’t need to be to get the average person to exercise, or at least realize how sedentary everyday life is, which is just fine for the benefits cases.

    Noel and I are looking ahead to the micro-location and ambient use cases.

  4. Joyce Says:

    I sat in on Lulit and Ivy’s Wearables focus group at OHUG, and for me, one interesting concept was that wearables just provide one more avenue for people to pursue their natural desire to compete. One of the customers say that it doesn’t actually matter what the prize is; people like to compete on just about anything.

    Wearables, even if the data isn’t accurate, provide some common metrics that all people can use to match themselves up against other users.

  5. Jake Says:

    @Joyce: Good point and for many, the best competition is w one’s self.

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