Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Amazon is getting into wearables, but how deep?

With rumours suggesting Amazon is about to launch its own phone, maybe I should start a rumour about the Amazon wearable.

After all, the company has just launched a dedicated storefront for the category.

Called the Wearable Technology store, this is an one-stop shop for trackers, smart watches, health products and wearable cameras. The store launches with FitBit and Samsung Gear as highlighted products, also including content from Gizmodo and to-be-released products like lifestyle camera Narrative. 

Yet as we've seen over the years, Amazon has launched its own e-reader, its tablet and its TV streaming box. And now the phone seems likely. 

The reason in all these cases is Amazon wants to keep its best customers within its own digital world: each device is a vertical silo whereby customers can only buy Amazon content or content that's distributed through Amazon. 

And wearables fit right into this. Wearing an Amazon tracker, the store's recommendation engine could tell you when you need to replace your running shoes (after 500 km), or the best sleeping pills to help with that annoying insomnia.  

So forget delivery drones. You'll soon be wearing Bezos on your wrist. 

Sunday, 27 April 2014

After some calculations, I still don't like NikeFuel

I'm probably starting to obsess, but I've been thinking more about NikeFuel.

Obviously, it has to based on something:  it's not totally made up. My point is that trying to come up with a wide measure of physical activity is a thankless, nigh-on impossible task. Which is why I think NikeFuel will fail to replace the calorie as a better measure.

Still, I wanted to dig down into it, so did some quick calculations.

I've simply analysed my own generation of NikeFuel over the past three years, measuring it against calories burned. Both of these metrics have been generated by my Nike+ TomTom GPS running watch so should be consistent across the period.

Interesting, the activity associated with burning 1 calorie has changed from 2.58 NikeFuel units in 2012, to 3.18 NikeFuel units in 2014; an increase of 19 percent.

However, my average running pace per km has also changed, so I also did a quick calculation to see if this was the reason. But even if we assume the watch isn't increasing the number of calories burned due to a faster pace at all (an extreme assumption), the improvement in my average running pace would only account for around 50 percent of the change in the conversion been a calorie and a NikeFuel unit.

My skepticism about NikeFuel continues...

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Facebook buys Moves in personal activity data move

Depending on your point of view, Facebook's acquisition of Moves either underlines the wider importance of the personal tracking market, or blows more air up the rear of an already over inflated bubble.

The company behind Moves is Helsinki-based Protogeo, and according to general concensus, the deal wasn't measured in the billions of an Oculus Rift, Instagram or WhatsApp.

Perhaps what's most interesting is that Moves isn't a hardware solution. To that extent, it's just another iOS/Android app, which uses motion and location data to generate a daily report, including Foursquare-style check-ins.

Indeed, it actively sells itself on being better than hardware gadgets like Fitbit, FuelBand (it doesn't handle sleep, though) or dedicated sports apps like Runkeeper, which is odd, because it only works if you take your phone with you everywhere you go; something we're likely do in terms of commute and general leisure activity but often not in terms of dedicated sports activity, although you can manually enter gym sessions etc.

As for the reason for the Facebook deal, it's hard to tell.

Protogeo says it will be business as usual; notably stating we have no plans to "commingle data with Facebook".

But you have to expect Moves-type functionality to make its way into Facebook, while further extending that software platform into Facebook-branded hardware could be a logical next, next step.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Nike’s attempt to roll NikeFuel as a platform play is smart but doomed

In some ways, it’s no surprise that Nike is refocusing away from fitness/wearable hardware to software. Despite the Nike+ brand, the FuelBand tracking bracelet (below) hasn’t found a strong position in the market, while the Nike+ TomTom GPS running watch - which I’ve happily used over the past 2 years - is too expensive compared to the competition.

According to Cnet, the company's decision sees around 70 staff of the 200-strong Nike Digital Sport being laid-off. Interestingly, though, Nike says it will keep supporting and selling the current FuelBand SE, as well as improving its app.

Given the relative small savings the company will be making, and the short/medium-term decision to remain in the market, this clearly is more a strategic than a ‘religious’ move. Fitness hardware will remain a main driver in the wearable category, but Nike has understood that it doesn’t really get hardware innovation.

Instead, it’s hoping thirdparty companies will adopt the NikeFuel training metric; something it’s supporting with its Fuel Lab testing space.

Of course, with the likes of Apple (a big Nike support in iOS) and Google, not to mention every phone maker, currently looking to get into wearables, getting out of the hardware market enables Nike to get its brand into the hardware of multiple vendors.

In that sense, it is a getting out of a highly competitive market in which it is failing in the hope of making more revenue and/or brand kudos with a co-operative platform play.

Sadly, then, the bigger issue for Nike is the entire NikeFuel concept - its proprietary measurement of training - which is entirely vacuous.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Fitbit treading water for the time being

There's an interview snippet from Fitbit CEO James Park on Engadget. 

Despite being viewed at the current market leader in the nascent fitness tracker market (58%), Park plays up Fitbit's start-up status. 

"We're still a relatively small company," he says.

Fitbit Flex - my current tracker

And that's the reason it's still struggling with the Flex recall. Although only 1.6 percent of users have returned their band, citing skin irritation issues, it's being investigated, hopefully returning, this time with a global roll-out.  

As for future devices, Park says, it's "advanced sensors, tracking more about your body. This is where we're going."