Whatever kind of device Apple will or will not introduce at their keynote today, we always like to take the opportunity to look beyond the immediate products and specs and think about the longer term implications. Here are some of the smartest reflections on wearables and this emerging category of devices that we have read this year so far.
The Third Wave of Computing
The point isn’t the gadget: it’s the combination of the intimacy of a device that is always with us and that only we use, with the power of cloud-based processing and storage
At the beginning of the year, Ben Hammersley provided a good overview of the current state of wearables including positive and negative future scenarios, Apple rumors, a categorization into introspective (like step counting) and extrospective (like small cameras) and other hints at the discussions around wearables.
Meet the Godfather of Wearables
It all started with beavers.
Before looking at the future of wearables, it’s always good to learn about their past. 30 years ago, Alex Pentland combined computer- and social sciences to use computers to observe human behaviors. In 1986, he inaugurated the Wearable Computing Project at MIT. It was the “first place dedicated exclusively to the creation of wearables.”
How to make Wearables stick
While the functionality of devices may drive initial sales, to create long-term value they have to be used long-term and drive healthy behavior change in users.
We’ve been arguing for a long time that the biggest challenge for companies in the quantified self category is long-term engagement of their customers with their devices. Michael A.M. Davies explains how habit formation, social motivation, and goal reinforcement are key for behavior change and thus continuous motivation. If companies don’t get this right, (introspective) wearables will be mostly know as the electronic waste we all have laying around.
Cards, Code and Wearables
The company most likely to kill native apps is Apple.
Wearables mostly can’t exist on their own. They need to be tethered to a device, usually a smartphone to connect to the internet. Ben Evans looks at Android Wear and the rumors around Apple’s Healthbook to think about how apps and streams and screens will work together in the near future.
Sensors and Sensitivity
Putting sensors elsewhere, into objects we come into contact with at certain times or in certain situations, contextualizes them — allowing use-cases to be more targeted and, as a result, more purposeful — and potentially more powerful.
With the hype around wearables, we tend to forget that we can put sensors into other objects around us. Natasha Lomas makes the case for these kinds of anti-wearables and gives some examples. Like a car seat that tracks our pulse and stress levels. Using sensors in this way makes for much more focused use-cases that serve specific purposes, instead of just tracking some flippant lifestyle metrics. Maybe we should think more about the objects we can put sensors in instead of all the sensors we can put on.