Apple hires major fashion exec

Big news for wearables (well, could be). Apple hires Yves Saint Laurent CEO Paul Deneve. With a nod to the luxury fashion world, the tech giant brings former YSL CEO on board to work on "special projects." Re-invigorating Apple retail or feeding fire to the Apple iWatch rumor-mill, what could they possibly have up their sleeve? "It appears that Apple will soon be taking tips from a fashion insider.

The tech giant officially annouced that it hired Paul Deneve -- the former CEO of luxury fashion goods company Yves Saint Laurent -- to work on "special projects," according to Bloomberg.

"We're thrilled to welcome Paul Deneve to Apple," Apple told Bloomberg. "He'll be working on special projects as a vice president reporting directly to Tim Cook."

Earlier Tuesday, AppleInsider reported on a tip it received that Deneve had been hired. The news source speculated that Deneve may be filling John Browett's shoes. Browett resigned from his position as Apple's retail chief last fall and the company has yet to hire his replacement. However, according to Bloomberg, Deneve won't be working on retail.

It's unclear what "special projects" entails. It could mean that Deneve might be working on Apple's design side or even on the company's rumored iWatch.

During an interview at the D11 conference in May, Cook said that he finds wearable computing "profoundly interesting", but that "you have to convince people it's so incredible you want to wear it." Cook pointed out that most young people don't wear watches, so it would be the company's job to make them appealing."

Continue reading on cnet. Image source.

Jawbone to acquire BodyMedia for $100M

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.

Engadget: The Wearable Tech Issue

Engadget's magazine, Distro, arrives with a look at wearable computing and the history behind Google Glass in their newly published Issue 70. It includes a good overview of the history of wearable tech and who the hot players are now. "The first wearable 'augmentations' span from the 11th and 12th centuries all the way up to Google's side project that has built a ton of momentum this year. In the cover story of this week's issue of our e-magazine, we take a look at Google Glassand the timeline of wearable computing that's led us to this point. Eyes-On keeps up the theme while taking a gander at Garmin's Fenix and we offer up an in-depth review of the second coming of Jawbone's UP. If that's not enough, the brains behind the Pebble smartwatch, Eric Migicovsky, submits his responses to the Q&A." Continue reading at Engadget.

Distro Issue 70 PDF Distro in the iTunes App Store Distro in the Google Play Store


In Remebrance Bill Moggridge, 1943-2012

Very sad news for the design community recently with the passing of one of IDEO's cofounders Bill Moggridge. He has been a tremendous influence to designers world wide and has had an infinite amount of impact on interaction and product design. He will truly be missed. Here's what Fast Company says:

In 2010, as the new director of the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Bill Moggridge rode into New York from California with a formidable resume: cofounder of Ideo, inventor of the first laptop computer, author of the seminal work on interaction design, educator, and winner of a slew of international design awards.

But as a city full of designers and design-lovers was quick to discover, rarely has such an illustrious bio been animated by such a delightful person.

Bill, who passed away from cancer last Saturday, September 8th, embraced the city with the enthusiasm of a kid from the boonies, fresh off the bus. He was everywhere: hosting design breakfasts with business leaders, leading panels with design luminaries, throwing parties at the Cooper-Hewitt’s grand mansion on Fifth Avenue’s Museum Mile, presiding over National Design Awards luncheons at the White House with Michelle Obama and the head of the Smithsonian, G. Wayne Clough.

Continue reading on Fast Company...

Apple hires a wearable technology guru

Apple hired a Senior Prototype Engineer, Richard W. DeVaul, a few weeks ago. He has a Ph.D. in Media Arts & Sciences from MIT and co-founded AWare Technologies. Not completely new news, but worth pondering what this means to the wearable technology field. With so much momentum being built up, will this help us reach the tipping point? According to The Unofficial Apple Weblog (Tuaw), "Apple has patented a large number of wearable fitness devices lately. Perhaps it's these that DeVaul will be working with, though we imagine that such a brilliant engineer will have his own ideas." So far the only wearable technology on the market today from Apple is the Nike+ iPod kit they created in collaboration with Nike. I'm eager to see what they do next.

Read the full article and announcement on Tuaw.

Image from Russell Hirtzel's portfolio site produced for Nike Brand Design Media Used for print and web advertisements.