Wearables, Big Data, and the 3 Keys to Connected Success

By Brian Burke, CEO, Smashing Ideas

Brian Burke, CEO, Smashing Ideas

Look down at your wrist.Is it adorned with Apple’s beta-segue into the wearables market – the Apple Watch? Or does your battle-tested FitBit still play a compulsory role in your day-to-day? I could make a safe bet that the Nike FuelBand, the first mainstream connected wearable, has found a new home in your junk drawer, taking up residence alongside years-forgotten Bluetooth earpieces and the elusive garage control. With so much excitement, and so much promise, flooding mainstream consumerism around wearables and connected everything, what constitutes a flop or a gamechanger? With competitive markets ever-growing, how do products break away from the fray, to create long-term market viability and relevance? The answers might surprise you.

To achieve success in the ever-shifting connected market, one must take a sobering look at why there are so many zombieprojects. There’s an engagement crisis- plain and simple. Consumers are inundated and attention-spans are fleeting – hovering around 8 seconds and brand loyalty is waning. Plus, big data, in all its over-hyped and often scary glory, factors in as does the user. You know the user – your customer, the consumer, the one that your success is most dependent on – they’re missing and they are the biggest missing component to this entire wearable market. 

The Missing Piece

The lack of user focus might surprise you, because, it seems the most obvious. But most companies are so focused on the ability to create something, anything, to keep up, that they lose sight on whether they should create something, and if so, is the user priority #1? There is no doubt that the quest for finding the right offering in wearables, with a balance of useful data, and relevant information for the consumer continues to drive innovation in this space. This is big business, with the continual happenings of mergers and acquisitions proving that the ever growing economy for this market segment isn’t going away any time soon.

Price Waterhouse Coopers’ The Wearable Future report from October 2014 found that 33 percentof surveyed consumers who purchased a wearable tech device more than a year ago no longer use the device at all, or at best, use it infrequently, with one of the primary reasons being the “lack of actionable and inconsistent information.” This is the role big data plays, for better or worse. Connected devices and big data share a symbiotic relationship. Devicedependent data is being collected at breakneck frequency. From monitoring your heartrate and measuring your REM sleep-cycle breathing patterns to tracking your attraction-route at Disneyworld via MagicBand so the park’s operators can adequately staff rides, the importance of collecting data, the right data, should create hyper-specific, personalized experiences that enhance the given experience. Data collection, when designed correctly, should be minimally intrusive, seamlessly invisible, and directly influence how your device becomes a “can’t live without” technology extension of your daily life.

Quantified Self vs. Quantified Collective

With the mining of data becoming an evolving movement, the focus of alwayson wearables is shifting to the ‘ Quantified Self’ – a movement in which all aspects of our lives will be measured by technology, from health and hygiene habits to spending trends and social engagement. But is individual data enough? What about the future of the ‘Quantified Collective’? Aggregated data from multiple individuals holds inherent value in comparative trends and experiences that may be shared amongst a broader group, but with individual insights. If this data could then be processed to provide actionable information to consumers beyond our own interpretations, it would hold more value and influence on not just the consumer, but also to product developers and their precise intention with the given wearable device.

The 3 Pillars of Success

Here’s what we know: wearables are a growing market, big data is happening, like it or not; attention spans are shortening and brand loyalty is dropping. Knowing all this, what is the solution to utilizing technology to improve our experience while maintaining control and empowering choice and grow the bottom line? There is an approach, we call Motivational UX that goes beyond trends and buzzwords, and harnesses the top 3 critical components you need to be aware of for long-term engagement:

1. User Experience: Big data is nothing, if not applied correctly. The results of data collection must correlate to a user experience that meets the needs of your customer’s decision journey through the adherence of research and design. Metaphor, fun interactions, games, and social components help create a bridge between data and device for the massconsumer.

2. Human Behavior: Big data and the Quantified Self are powerful additives to a deep understanding of behavioral psychology. By triggering moments that are innately human in how we experience and interact with the world around us, the user will allow wearable devices to become a benefit, not a detriment.

"It’s about creating connected experiences that are relevant, not in the trendy sense, but the right approach with the right data at the right time for the right product"

3. Game Design Thinking: Why are games such repeatable experiences? Because they trigger the power of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards to create satisfying engagements. Throw in a heavy dose of the fun factor, and game design thinking creates a habitforming experience.

The Big Picture

What does this all mean? It’s about creating connected experiences that are relevant, not in the trendy sense, but the right approach with the right data at the right time for the right product. There is no doubt that the wearable market can, and will, offer extensive opportunities to improve vast areas of our life. Look at the notion of ‘whole health’ – how to improve systemic health analysis and the use of data to expand our understanding of our well-being that wouldn’t be possible until now without heavy medical interventions. But if an eye on user experience isn’t steady, more and more products will pile up in that long forgotten drawer.

Keep the focus on Motivational UX – user experience design that has a strategic and concerted effort to make the journey enjoyable. Wearables should be extensions of self, big data should create enhanced and personalized engagements, and our technology should support a more conscious approach to daily life.

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