Big news for wearable tech in the consumer electronics sector. Jawbone's BodyMedia acquisition is an important milestone and an indication that the wearable tech industry is starting to take off toward (potentially) broader consumer markets. I say potentially, because it's still very early, we are essentially in the "brick phone" phase and have a lot of proving to do to ensure that wearable tech is not a fad, but rather, a lasting technological movement that helps progress us to the next evolution in technology. That being said, there are a few aspects of this acquisition that are particularly exciting:
Combining data to make new meaning
One area that I think has enormous potential is making meaning out of the data that we collect from these new types of wearables. BodyMedia has put tremendous amount of effort toward developing unique algorithms that combine data in interesting ways to make it more useful and add more value to their customers. And Jawbone Up has a nice start on visualizing that data so that it's meaningful and useful to the user. For example, for the "quantified self" lovers, there's a nice feature that allows you to compare different metrics side-by-side so that you can see trends, patterns and make new meaning out of it such as how your carb intake impacts your sleep quality. I haven't seen anyone else allow you to compare in this way. But that's just scratching the surface.
I think there are also opportunities to combine biometric data with other types of data to help make more useful and delightful correlations. For example, a colleague of mine mentioned his desire to understand what impacts his blood pressure. In that case, why not triangulate other types of data such as combining blood pressure (collected from a wearable device) plus other personal data such as your credit card statement plus publicly available data such as time. Then you can track your coffee purchases and begin to make correlation's between your blood pressure levels and your coffee intake. This is just one example of the exciting new scenarios we can see when we combine the possibilities of new wearable form-factors with different data types. Both Jawbone and BodyMedia are set up to do this.
Creating an open, extensible platform
Right now, we have so many different products that all run on different platforms. As a consumer, I have to buy into each individual platform, install separate apps, run the devices separately, and manage all of these different experiences separately depending on what I want to track and do. For example, I recently evaluated the Nike Fuelband, Fitbit, and Jawbone Up and wore each simultaneously for 6 weeks. Each product had it's own device that I had to buy and wear, individual software/firmware that I had to install and apps that I had to install and run separately. From a device perspective, they all (generally) collected similar data. But I had to use 3 different platforms to get different views to make different meaning out of the data. You can begin to see how cumbersome this was and could be as we continue to create more and more products on different platforms. What we need is to develop a set of standards that allow you to essentially plug in the device and see the data in many different ways based on what your goals are or what you want/need on the same platform.
With this acquisition, Jawbone plans to make the platform available to 3rd party developers to create new applications and experiences based on the data the devices are collecting. Nike just did this with their Accelerator program where they opened up their APIs to developers to create new applications using their Fuel metric. This is the beginning of an entirely new ecosystem of applications that will exist on top of your wearables. And that is a pretty solid indication that wearable tech is here to stay. Now we just need to figure out how to create a set of standards that allows us to develop new types of devices that can easily "plug" into the same platform and, ultimately, the same ecosystem.
Beyond fitness toward lifestyle
Both Jawbone Up and BodyMedia are still very niche. Meaning, they're focused on fitness and health. There are so many other aspects of our lives that can be impacted by the kind of data that they are collecting. I'd like to see us move beyond fitness and think about how the data that's being collected be considered across other areas of our lives. I think Jawbone is set up for this as their product family covers entertainment, with their Jambox speaker, and communication with their bluetooth headset. I'm eager to find out how they will apply BodyMedia's info in other ways and explore other areas of our lives beyond fitness.
For more information, read an article on the acquisition at Fast Company.