We Need More Context, Not More Wearables

“We live in a wearable world.”

This will soon replace the phrase “we live in a digital world”.  Whether you like it or not, it seems very likely that this transition will take place.  However, there is an important prerequisite for this to take place:

We need more context, not more wearables.

For a current good overview of how many wearables are available you should check this database compiled by Vandrico:

Wearables

And there are more in the pipeline. It is safe to say that the number of wearable devices will only increase.

I guess you could say I’m an early adopter when it comes to wearables and I track far more than the average person – I have tracked activity, exercise, nutrition, blood pressure, mood, sleep, and location (and still track most of these today).

With all this data, the key thing missing is context. And this is not just an issue for the avid trackers like me. I have spoken with a number of individuals who only track a couple of aspects of their lives, and they share the same feelings as I do.

So, what is context?

Here is where it becomes complicated.  It is easy to argue that we want more context, but it is actually difficult to define it.  For me context means the following:

I wake up in the morning.  My sleep tracker tells me that I slept only 5 hours while I normally sleep on average 6 hours.  It also indicates that I had only half-hour of deep sleep while I normally get 2.  My calendar knows this and is asking me if this difficult task I have to do on that day which requires significant brain-power should be moved for tomorrow.  If I choose yes, then my nutrition tracker proposes to me a food plan for the day to stay as much energized as possible to get through my difficult task.  My location trackers tells me where to find the best places where I can get this food plan.  My exercise tracker has picked up the above information and asks me to plan on my calendar a 1 hour cardio exercise in the middle of the day right after the lunch…

 I can go on and on here, but you get the point.

For others, context may be a bit simpler:

From the data I track it’s clear that I get a better quality of sleep when I move over 10,000 steps each day. Or; on the days where I’ve had 9 hours or more sleep the night before I feel more productive and am also more active.

The above examples means that data needs to be actionable.  That’s only the first part, though.  The second is Insights.  Let me explain: I am interested in deep sleep.  My goal is to increase it.  What drives, my deep sleep though?  What significant correlations can my data tell me regarding deep sleep?  Where can I find more information?  Is there somebody else in the universe who has the same goal and how can I find this information?

That’s MY idea of context, though.  Is my definition of context the same as yours?  Maybe.  Send us your story of context here and we can publish it as a guest blogpost on our blog.

Where we are at now?

Fortunately, recent announcements from Apple, Google, and Samsung are aiming, as far as I can see, in cultivating an ecosystem where such a context can flourish.

With Addapp we are striving to produce this context.  We are not there yet but we are definitely getting closer.

More posts written by our founders?

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CEO & Co-founder of Addapp. I love tracking, coffee, anything cooked
by my mom, startups, and quantified self.

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12 Comments

  1. Despite the large number of wearables, capturing enough data to provide sufficient context for automated insights isn’t practical for most people…

  2. Thanks Eric. I am not sure about that. I understand what you say but I think what is missing is smarter and more relevant insights to use the data a person tracks. I don’t think we need more data for this, we need smarter algorithms. I am not absolutely sure yet on how this will be done, but we are going to try this here in Addapp

    1. I agree that we need software that provides insight, not just motivation and entertainment. But in order to do so, we also need more complete data.

      For example, most wearables don’t distinguish between sitting on the couch and not being worn. So we might conclude that sitting on the couch before going to bed helps us sleep better, when in fact we sleep best after going to the swimming pool!

  3. Then I definitely agree with you that we need better wearables, not more :-) or if you want better technology. I think, that is though simply a matter of time to get to this technology. This in combination with context will make the wearables even more useful.

  4. Kouris, Lumo Back or Lumo Lift – are these the kind of wearables you are talking about? they are checking your posture throughout the day and coaches how to improve. I am dreaming about wearable that will check my posture during any acitivity (e.c. running) and make suggestions how to improve tecnique)

  5. Hi Natalia, thanks for your comment. My point is the following: I see too many wearables being launched which work in isolation and don’t provide the context which is needed by users. This is why wearables are being dropped by users after 6 months of use. Creating context means better interoperability and better software. Of course there are wearables out there being launched which can make a difference. The Lumo guys are doing some great stuff and I know one of their founders personally and I have respect for them. Don’t take my generalization as an absolute one, look maybe more on what I am pointing out that is missing.

    1. well, agree, Kouris. It’s like with information in internet, we don’t need more information resourses, we don’t need more apps sepparately measuring our activites – we want well-curated content, packed in some useful and actionable bites of information. Maybe it’s a future of wearable devices as well)

  6. Benjamin Middaugh

    I hope I’m not jumping into this too late, but I just recently discovered your site. (I have little use for your system at the moment, being an Android user.) My experience is that we cannot truly get useful context between wearables until we can convince these companies to share the data they collect more broadly. Why do I need a separate app for my heartrate measuring earphones and my wrist-mounted pedometer and sleep tracker? Why can’t I get everything in one place no matter what wearables I use? I admire what you’re trying to do, but until we have available APIs for every wearable and every other measuring device (scales, etc.), we won’t be able to have the context we need.

    1. There are quite a few services that let you see all (or most) of your data in one place (see e.g. the list at https://zenobase.uservoice.com/knowledgebase/articles/360890-how-does-zenobase-compare-to-other-services). Furthermore, services like Validic and Human API, and platforms like Apple’s HealthKit and Google Fit are lowering the bar for building such services.

      The real challenge is doing something useful with the data!

    2. Hi Benjamin,

      First of all sorry for not being able to use our product for the moment but we had to go first on iOS due to limited resources. It’s in our plans to go to Android as soon as we feel that our product is stable. Regarding your point you’re absolutely correct. But, as Eric has replied already, there are some great recent developments (e.g. Healthkit & Googlefit) which makes the process of providing context easier. Also, as Eric said the difficulty is producing something useful with the data and it will not be that easy from the beginning. In Addapp we have decided to focus on this more than anything because that’s where the value this. Step by step we’re getting there and our product will become better and better every bit of the way. Feel free to ask us any questions.

      @Eric: as always, thanks for your engagement!

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