Wearables at SXSW

We know more about cars than our own bodies

A fascinating question posed this year at SXSW was, “why do our cars know more about themselves than we humans do?” Consider for a moment, the real-time reporting and insights that a car can provide. On the dashboard, key metrics such as engine temperature, MPH, RPMs, fuel level and even MPG readings allow drivers to better understand how the car is performing in real time. When the car needs an oil change, or has low tire pressure, lights flash giving us actionable insights to ensure corrective action is taken. These actionable, real-time insights allow us to take good care of our vehicles and keep them running for many years.

Wearable

Now, consider the insights that we have access to with our own bodies. Sure, we may be able to wear a heart rate monitor to measure our current heart rate, or track our steps throughout the day, but the level of actionable insights that we access to on a day-to-day basis is extremely limited. During SXSW 2016, wearable product leaders came together for a session titled: “Wearables: The Future Isn’t in Measuring the Past” to discuss the future of wearables and the dashboard for human life.

Measuring body systems deep beneath the skin. 
Today, wearable technology is relatively limited. We are able to track the most basic of movements, heart rate, and an approximation of calories burned. This will all change in the coming years. Both startups and major corporations are working to develop non-invasive technologies that will provide analysis on biological systems down to the cellular level. By understanding the current composition of our blood, sodium, potassium, chloride, and fluids in real-time, it will open the door for more detailed dashboards and eventually actionable insights. 

BSX Athletics, a small Austin, TX startup, has developed a “tachometer for humans.” They founded their company with the belief that reporting historical data to athletes post-event isn’t nearly as valuable as real-time insights. The company created a small sleeve for high-performance athletes that contains sensors that push data to the athlete in real time. The dashboard is used by Team USA Cycling to provide cyclists with measures of muscle performance mid-race, which allow them to adjust pacing and pressure to optimized performance. BSX Athletics believes that these technologies have the ability to turn any home gym into a high-performance fitness facility.

Delivering simple, actionable insights in real time.
With more complex analysis and data becoming available through wearable devices, it will be critical for companies to provide simple, actionable insights to users. Providing a person with sodium and chloride levels is interesting, but if the information is not contextualized, it will leave people asking: What does this mean? What should I do? Future wearable devices will contextualize and simplify the complex analyses and create actionable recommendations to keep the body running optimally. This may include recommending specific foods or beverages to meet nutritional needs, levels of exercise on specific muscle groups, or precise durations of sleep.

An example of this technology was on display at the Gatorade Fuel Lab at SXSW Interactive 2016. Gatorade partnered with CoreSyte to develop biosensors that stick to the skin like a bandage, and measure compositions and levels deep within the body. The data from these sensors can be plugged into Gatorade’s platform to provide the athlete with very simple nutrition and future workout recommendations.

Turning information into inspiration. 
As adoption of wearable devices continues to skyrocket (48% growth in sales from 2015 to 2017), it is imperative that marketers begin developing strategies to engage consumers. Abhi Bhatt, Director of Product - Wearables at Under Armour, explained that the key for marketers consider when building strategies for wearables is to turn the information into inspiration. Brands that successfully leverage the mass amounts of information that wearables capture to inspire consumers to feel better, look better, or perform better will win. With the recent launch of HealthBox and a series of connected products, Under Armour has developed a fully integrated digital platform that helps its customers “Exercise smarter. Feel better. Live longer.”

During the week at SXSW Interactive, the theme of wearable technology echoed throughout the halls of every hotel and convention center in the city. The advances in technology and consumer adoption made it clear that as marketers we must stay ahead of the curve and begin creating strategies that leverage these platforms to inspire our customers. 

-Spencer Smith

Senior Manager,  Strategy - 1to1