The Connected Body: Can We Get Value From Wearables?

Imagine a type of connected device that not only is fashionable and functional, but takes your collected data and personalizes it to fit your needs, ultimately improving your quality of life. Wearable technology, while still “young,” is in fact headed in that direction.

Wearable technology is the latest wave of innovation. Here at in Austin, you’ll find at least five sessions a day on the connected body and wearables. I attended a panel on my third day here at SXSW called, “The Connected Body: Can We Get Value From Wearables?” And of course, I have the same questions.

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“It’s a fantastic question and obviously why we’re here,” said Jef Holove, the CEO of Basis. “Before we can start to think about what direction we want wearables to head in, we need to first make a distinction between a needs-based and consumer-based solution. Needs-based would be solving dire health-related problems like heart disease and diabetes, while consumer-based would be the FitBits, Jawbones and smart watches of the world. Once we make that distinction, I think wearable devices will have two main avenues for which it can grow into the market.”

Rodrigo Martinez, life sciences chief strategist at IDEO, agreed, but believes that where consumers will get the most out wearables is how the standard connected device will turn into an “adaptive” one.

“If I’m a runner and I run a particular route by the Charles River in Boston three days a week, I’d want to know if there was a sound, a sense or something within my body that made me run differently,” he said. “Wearables have all this data from us, the consumers, but I think we need to move from the connected body to the engaged body. How can we take the device and all of the neat things it can tell us and leverage that to live a better life.”

Third on the panel was Yijing Brentano, the vice president of strategic initiatives and mobile health at Sprint. Her opinion was very much like the other two panelists, but focused more on how corporations can leverage this data to understand consumers better.

“It doesn’t matter what your fashion statement is today or tomorrow, it’s about what you can do with the data and turn it into actual value for consumers,” Bretano said. “It’s about continuity and at Sprint, we want to take that data and build apps and services on top of that.”

So what would that look like? Well, If you’re an athlete, your wearable device would give you recommendations and tips to improve training and nutrition based on your current performance or goals. Or, if you’re really stressed out and seem to be losing the hours in the day to work, it may tell you about a coffee shop around the corner or better yet, when you should take a much needed nap.

To close the session, Bonnie Cha, writer for Re/Code asked the panel what they are excited about in the wearables space and where this rapid innovation will come from. Their answers? Digestibles, injectables and sensor-based solutions. Where will it come from? Startups.

But one thing was clear about the future of wearable technology: The need for that adaptive solution is driven by the notion of self-discovery.

“Wearable technology will grow into being known more so as a behavior tracking category than anything else,” Holove said. “What will it change in your life and how can you contextualize the data that device is giving you? It’s even more neat to think about it as a way of self-discovery, too. What can I learn about myself and my habits that I never knew existed? That’s the place where I’m excited to see wearable technology head.”

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