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Platform Approach to Building Wearables

Are you ready for today's wearable devices?

Wearables have gained a lot of popularity and widespread acceptance in the last few years. Not only are individuals buying these devices off the shelves, many companies are urging their employees to use wearables in order to keep track of illnesses and absenteeism. Predominantly, the idea of a wearable surrounds topics such as health, wellness, clothing and sports. People have a strong desire to keep a log of their bodily functions, and track every aspect of their daily life. This is aptly termed “Quantified Self” (coined by Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly).

It is rather uninteresting to use a device which always tells you what you are and what you do. Indeed, you can truly achieve your goals if you are allowed to do what you like and are able to take control of things. Of course, a little bit of support always helps.

The real motivation behind buying these devices is still a mystery for even the biggest players in the industry. Organisations are  more likely customers than individual buyers. They are giving subsidies to their employees to buy fitness trackers. Some oppose these devices as being an intrusion on their privacy and others tend to misunderstand the device’s metrics. Owing to the psyche of the users and sometimes due to inconsistencies in their function (at present wearable tech’s capabilities are limited to ‘Tracking’ and they are way behind in terms of prescriptive analytics), many of the wearables have failed to impress buyers. So how can a large customer base be attained?

Build Platforms!

Allow users to customise devices based on their needs. Make the gadgets more modular and easy to use and integrate. For example, Nixie, a wearable drone, captures photos from a distance when you need it, and wraps around your arms like a watch when you don’t.

Rithmio, a company, has built a “gesture recognition platform” and claims that you can train any motion-sensing device to learn gestures to perform specific tasks. Blocks, have recently launched the world’s first modular watch (even before the launch of ‘Project Ara’, the modular phone by Google).

As the product base diversifies and due to the increase in the introduction of new devices in various industries, there will be a clear need for building platforms for each of the industrial applications. It is time that companies realise opportunities to build newer business models in the wearable tech space.

A platform for example can be built in the bio-mechanics space. Essentially, every parameter of the body remains the same, but different sensors measure them with varied precision. Integrating sensor data, biomechanical models, together with machine intelligence into a platform will encourage new applications in sports, health and fitness etc and maintain consistency across all devices. This could very well be the future of wearables in healthcare. To quote David:

Until wearable technologies embrace the “Big Data” of biomechanics, the ability for consumers and health care providers to grasp and sustain the benefits will remain a challenge. – David C Robinson, CEO of Navillum Nanotechnologies

APX labs lists industries where wearables will be heavily used and their software platform provides access to diverse features. Their proprietary technology Skylight, can be used in different industries for various tasks. For instance in the automotive industry, visual projections from wearable devices help workers to make sophisticated products. Telecom and retail needs devices like smart-glasses to perform field activities and facilitate in-store operations for inventory set up respectively. Many of these applications are becoming absolutely necessary and don’t just remain a fancy experiment.

A ‘market pull’ approach towards building a platform type business model, tends to address customer problems and priorities. Companies like Mbient, WaRP board and Rithmio seem to do just that.

The wearables you buy today (or the ones you have already bought) mostly end up being worthless after a few years. Perhaps, sooner than anticipated, you will be able to buy what ‘YOU’ want or customise the devices to your specific needs with the help of such wearable platforms.