Wearables Hackfest: What to do with that Data?

I had the opportunity to participate in the Boulder edition of the “Where are your Wearables” Hackfest last week hosted by Quick Left.

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With over a 100 people showing up and lots of first time hackers we saw eight teams form up with a mix of talents. Being a non-coder myself I simply picked a group that was not too big and offered my product talents in talking through concepts. More on what we built in a moment.

First a little bit about the hackfest: We were provided access to the Fitbit API,UnderArmour API and had Sparkfun LilyPad kit with the goal to build something in 3 hours.

Observations

Hackfests almost always create issues when it comes to integration. Unless someone on the team already knows a lot about an API the first issues are getting setup.

  • Connecting to data. Most teams used the Fitbit API only or a couple had another device they brought and then used that as a data source. Most teams spent time just getting access to the API setup, OAuth working and then dumping their data into a client for the app (if they got that far)
  • Security. OAuth was a requirement for the Fitbit API which is pretty standard these days. The team I worked on had some issues that slowed us down getting this to work correctly.
  • Clean data & real-time data. Given most teams had a basic scenario we were all only working with a single data set, but still getting access to the data in real-time for the client app added complexity to the solution. In the real world for most wearables to break through the basic health examples we see today they are going to need to blend multiple data sets to provide value to the end user.

A few thoughts on the solutions that were built

Most of the teams just tried to get one integration working and then add a secondary calculation or evaluation that would provide the value to the user. It’s only 3 hours and the KISS principle was generally followed by the best examples of the night.

In no order these were some of the solutions that stood out to me.

WaterGoals: Wearable integrated: Fitbit. This seemed like a very practical solution. The idea was that a lot of people are not able to read the display screen on the typical watch if they are exercising so why not integrate the data and add visuals that give them data like heart rate and water consumption. For example, the data could be integrated into the clothing they are wearing and either a single visual element or the entire garment could change color based on the person being below or above their hear rate goal range. Another example was adding a touch pad that would add a quantity of water consumed – say 1 cup – when the person pushed it while they were exercising because it’s not easy to fumble with your wearable.

Fitbeer: Wearable integrated: Fitbit. I worked on this team and the idea was just to provide an easy way for someone to track consumption of any liquid, but we used beer for the example. By tracking an activity type on a Fitbit and identifying arm movement the goal would be to track the number of times a person picked up their glass to consume and track real-time the calories being burned by the activity and the calories being consumed. In addition we planned an integration to Twitter so someone could share their results as a social component.

Where’s the damn remote: Wearable integrated: Myo armband. This team used a Myo to integrate to an Apple TV so they could do selection of shows/movies/music with hand gestures. This was interesting since they had to define the hand gestures and then do the integration to map them to get the desired action in the Apple TV. This was the most real demo of the night in terms of fully working.

My main take away from the event was that people are still searching for the way that wearables can be dead simple for the user and provide lots of value. Most of the generation 1 solutions provide some type of health measurements and now also provide access to the Internet (e.g. Google Glass) but finding ways to combine multiple data sets to provide a life changing solution are what will let us know when we are starting to see generation 2 solutions. And for the enterprise IT area it still seems wearables are a long way off as they remain very much a consumer oriented solution today with some things to work out before we see anything but very early experimentation for enterprise IT.

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