What opportunities, events, or challenges motivate a business to incorporate wearable technology into its business model, especially in light of the challenges involved in developing for a new platform?
Of the 15 companies that participated in an interview series about wearable technology, eight were businesses that decided to extend an existing mobile platform to wearables. As first movers and innovators in this new sector of technology, these thought leaders shared the motivating factorsbehind the decision to develop a wearable application or device, as well as the lessons they learned throughout the process.
Their insight revealed four main motivating factors for engaging with wearable technology in its early stages.
- Provide access to content on multiple platforms.
- Take advantage of wearables’ proximity to the body.
- Embrace the early adopter opportunity to develop something brand new.
- Use new technology to address an existing problem.
1. Provide Access to Content on Multiple Platforms
Businesses with existing mobile- and web-based products and services viewed wearable technology as a means of extending their reach by allowing users to access content, products, and services on as many platforms as possible.
“You want to be available to users on any platform, device, or medium that makes sense.”
— Jon Michaeli, Head of Marketing and Business Development, MediSafe
Expanding to a wearable platform grants a business another means of enhancing the customer's experience.
For example, Tarasov Mobile, the creator of the task management application, Chaos Control, developed a wearable counterpart in order to address the company's goal of increasing productivity, according to Dmitriy Tarasov, founder and CEO of Tarasov Mobile.
“We wanted to use this new platform to provide some additional value and to increase our users' productivity in some way.”
— Dmitriy Tarasov
Similarly, PizzaPizza expanded its mobile capabilities to the Apple Watch in order to improve the user's experience.
“We have a mobile application, and we believed extending its capabilities to a wearable device would be useful and fun for our users.”
— Amar Narain, Head of Information Technology, PizzaPizza
Runtastic, a fitness and lifestyle technology company with more than 15 fitness tracking applications, took advantage of the wearables trend by developing the Orbit, an activity tracker that aggregates a variety of data in the Runtastic Me app.
Through this device, Runtastic strived to broaden its audience by focusing on promoting a healthful lifestyle, rather than just tracking activities and workouts.
“We didn't want to limit the Orbit's use to sports and fitness activities only. We wanted to attract a whole new segment of the population that wasn't drawn to us as a company at first because it thought, 'I'm not fit enough to download these fitness-focused apps,' or 'I'm not the person who goes to the gym or makes time to run.' We believe the Orbit was our first chance to get in front of everyday people who want to live a little bit healthier but don't know how to measure the health of their current lifestyle.”
— Stephanie Peterson, Vice President of Strategic Communications and Marketing, Runtastic
Additionally, the extension of Lose It!’s mobile application to wearables furthers its goal of providing users a comprehensive means of meeting weight loss goals.
“We wanted to provide people with a more holistic view of their overall digital health, which is why we chose to integrate with so many other health and fitness brands and include features, like nutritional data, sleep cycle monitoring, and the ability to set blood glucose, blood pressure, and exercise goals. Weight loss is not as simple as counting calories.”
— Charles Teague, Founder and CEO, Lose It!
Lose It! integrates with Google Fit, Jawbone, FitBit, Nike, Misfit, Withings, Strava, MapMyFitness, Apple Health, and Runkeeper and can be accessed from a variety of devices, including a desktop, laptop, phone, or tablet.
2. Take Advantage of Wearables' Proximity to the Body
Some businesses recognized that wearable technology enables them to close the physical gap between their product and the consumer. This increased connectivity habituates the user to embrace the service provided by the company wholeheartedly.
Smartwatch applications make it harder for a user to ignore notifications and reminders, according to Sean Mehra, head of product at HealthTap. This phenomena benefits HealthTap's mission of helping people live happier, healthier, and longer lives.
“The other thing that's to their [wearables'] advantage is that they are touching your skin. While it may be very easy to ignore a buzzing phone that's separated from your thigh by cotton in your pocket, it's very hard to do that with a buzzing metal watch touching your wrist.”
— Sean Mehra
Similarly, MediSafe, which aims to address non-adherence to prescription medications, recognizes the importance of remembering to take a medication 24-7, regardless of whether your phone is available to remind you.
“If you need to take medication when you don't have your phone to remind you, there needs to be another way to remember. The watch can be on your wrist 24-7. The watch also makes it even more difficult to miss a notification. For example, if your phone is vibrating in your pocket or purse, you may not feel it, whereas the watch is in your face. It makes sense for us to support our users in any way we can. With the watch app, we are making it even harder, virtually impossible, to skip a dose accidentally.”
— Jon Michaeli
Besides ensuring that a user does not miss an important notification, the proximity of wearables may increase efficiency, a perk Dmitriy Tarasov of Tarasov Mobile identified as a motivating factor.
“When we put functionality in our wearable application … we decreased the number of interactions with the smartphone for our users. Now, when you want to check out your tasks for today or tomorrow, you don't need to get your phone from your pocket. You don't need to use your phone very often, which decreases the overall number of times you interact with your phone. This means you'll be less distracted and more productive. Our goal was really all about increasing productivity.”
— Dmitriy Tarasov
3. Embrace Early Adopter Opportunity
The first applications designed for wearable devices like the Pebble, Apple Watch, Android Wear, Samsung Gear, and Google Glass, had the potential not only to shape the future of wearable applications but also to benefit from the excitement surrounding the new technology.
“We knew that the Apple Watch was coming out, so we jumped on the Apple bandwagon, knowing how popular Apple devices are.”
— Amar Narain
“There's always an early-mover advantage to be on a platform sooner rather than later in order to have more time to figure the platforms out and really get it right.”
— Sean Mehra
Being the first facilitates innovation.
“The first real impetus for [developing Sickweather's wearable app] was to take advantage of the early adopter opportunity and excitement around the Apple Watch, but we didn't want to simply extend what we were already doing on the iPhone app to the Apple Watch. We wanted to create a whole new experience that was much more relevant to a wearable platform.”
— Graham Dodge, President and CEO, Sickweather
In Sickweather's case the ability to create something brand new resulted in Sick Score, a threat level index that is calculated based on the reproductive scores of the contagious illnesses tracked in a certain area.
Similarly, HealthTap embraced the ability to contribute to the health sector in a new way.
“Wearables were a new form factor, and as a thought leader, HealthTap felt responsible for contributing to how these new devices would fit into the use cases for managing health.”
— Sean Mehra
4. Use New Technology to Address a Problem
Businesses in the health sector identified wearables as another method of addressing a slew of problems, from limited mobility, to non-adherence to prescribed medications, to non-compliance to doctors' advice.
First, Reemo's main motivation for creating the Reemo device arose from a desire to facilitate independent living in spite of mobility limitations.
“My co-founder's father had multiple strokes back to back. He couldn't use one side of his entire body, so he was unable to move around comfortably in his home. He was constantly at risk of falling, and he actually experienced falls. It was a huge financial and emotional burden for his family to offer him care while, at the same time, trying to make him feel empowered and independent. That's where the idea for a one-handed remote for everything came to mind. It has since evolved into an elegant smartwatch-enabled solution for anyone with mobility concerns.”
— Al Baker, Co-founder and CEO, Reemo
The Reemo device enables hands-free interactions between an individual and his environment, such as turning on a light or adjusting the thermostat.
Second, MediSafe's mobile platform aims to address the $290 billion problem of non-adherence to prescribed medications by using wearable technology to demonstrate how taking a medication can improve health.
“Patients want to see positive results arise from putting a chemical – their medication – into their body. For example, when they take their medication, their health improves.”
— Jon Michaeli
Third, HealthTap's foray into wearable technology aimed to close the gap between existing technology's ability to collect health-related data and sharing this data with a doctor in a consultation setting.
“All of a sudden, the data becomes useful because the doctor can tell you, 'Hey, because your graph looks like this, I think this is the treatment that you should be taking on,' or, 'Your symptoms are flaring up again because it seems like you haven't been doing this thing that these wearables are telling me and tracking.' … On HealthTap, you're getting virtual care. You're on a digital medium, so the doctor is looking at your patient chart anyway.”
— Sean Mehra
Interviews with businesses that developed wearable applications or devices within the past year and a half revealed four fundamental motivating factors.
These opportunities not only hint at the vibrant future of wearable technology but also highlight the factors that color business's decisions to develop on a new platform.
To learn more about these businesses' wearable projects, check out Clutch's article featuring the variety of use cases for wearable technology.