My Top 5 Picks
I tried 30 wearable technology products (i.e. Google Glass) in 30 days, and here are my top 5 picks. The wearable products range in performance from monitoring sleep patterns, water intake and activity levels. “Quantified self” devices have grown to include sensors that are worn as watches, clothing, “biostamp” temporary tattoos, ingested, implanted and carried. All of the devices are designed to users take their healthcare into their own hands.
1) Best Individual Fitness Tracking Device: Shine by Misfit
Do you want to be healthier? Are you looking for a fitness tracker that looks great, doesn’t require daily charging and is easy to use? Across categories, Shine wins. Shine measures a person’s activity ranging from “light activity” to “moderate” to “heavy activity,” and knows when users’ are cycling and when they wake. Specifically, Shine uses a high precision 3-axis accelerometer to measure activity levels based on the users’ vertical and horizontal movements, so it can track when a user is asleep, and track their fitness levels. The tracking will encourage users to be more aware of their patterns and they can set goals to improve their habits. The activity tracking is amazingly accurate for a device that needs next to zero human input to determine contextual awareness.
This is the future. It is beautifully designed, completely water proof, and the chrome disc, which is slightly larger than a quarter, comes with a black rubbed wristband, or can be inserted into a ring that has a magnetic clip. I wrapped this clip over a gold necklace, but it can also be clipped to one’s pocket, belt, or anywhere close to the body. With the Shine, I never have to think about taking care of the device, I can let it take care of me. Some trackers, like WaterHabit, remind us every few hours to take an action. Shine is more passive, but the data it collects is robust. If I were to recommend only one device to start tracking habits, it would be Shine by Misfit Wearables. Shine costs $119.95 and can be purchased at www.misfitwearables.com or at many of Apple’s retail locations.
2) Best Up-And-Coming Brand: Jawbone
Jawbone is strategically placing themselves at the intersection of design and utility similar to Apple. Jawbone will be a device powerhouse. I have been using Jawbone’s Up fitness band ($129.99), Jambox speaker ($149.99), and ERA Bluetooth headset ($129.99). The Up band is a fitness monitor that cleverly plugs directly into the users’ phone for low-effort syncing. It also allows the user to track meals by photo upload, manual entry, or by scanning a label’s bar code for nutritional information. The Up requires the user to be more engaged than the Shine, but it also tracks more metrics in beautifully designed app. The Jambox, a sleek, portable speaker, and the ERA, an earpiece headset, showcase Jawbone products’ seamless Bluetooth connection with a users’ phone, minimizing the need to constantly pair a device with a source. This year Jawbone acquired BodyMedia in a deal north of $100m, giving the company the rights to BodyMedia’s portfolio of at least 87 patents around multi-sensor technology and data delivery systems.
I predict Jawbone will be the Apple of wearables. I recommend the Jawbone Up over the Shine by Misfit for users’ who are more actively engaged with their fitness and nutrition. I would recommend any Jawbone product for quality of craftsmanship and design (but not for those looking for the most inexpensive product – Jawbone’s prices are on the high end of price). Jawbone products can be purchased directly at www.jawbone.com, or at Apple retail stores.
3) Best Futuristic Device Preview: Google Glass
Google had it first. At a very basic level, Google Glass syncs with email, text messages, Facebook, Twitter, takes photos, records movies, and can search the web as well as provide location information, maps and directions. All displayed in a small prism above a user’s right eye. At a more advanced level, there are applications in the works that span the gamut from healthcare diagnostics to augmented reality gaming. There have already been surgeries streamed from glass to medical students for educational purposes.
As of now, Glass is not available for consumers, but do not fret, it’s for the best. The current developer program is helping Google improve Glass’ experience to soon become a consumer-facing device. In the name of leadership in innovation, Google wins.
4) Most Innovative Physical Application: MC10
MC10’s products have the promise to change the future of global health – with the “temporary tattoos” of sensors.
MC10 is leading the way in “wearable tech” with the “Biostamp,” a seamless sensing sticker that by stretching, flexing and moving with the body, is redefining the interface between humans and electronics. MC10 is developing a number of products in multiple markets, including fitness, consumer health, and medical devices. The Biostamp can measure a variety of physiological functions: data from the brain, muscles, heart, body temperature, even hydration levels.
Virtually invisible sensors encourage everyone to proactively measure their health, and will enable much higher adoption for wearable electronics. Some of the most exciting opportunities are in monitoring and supporting populations as diverse as serious athletes, expectant and new moms, and the elderly. The company is ingenious in their thought behind the application of sensors. Do we need to spend $150-$300 on our wearable devices? Do we need to strap bulky devices to our wrists, belts or eyes? Not necessarily. While I can’t speak to the price point of MC10’s future products, I know the Biostamp was engineered to be a disposable product – lasting approximately 7 days, rendering the cost much, much lower on a per use basis than other diagnostic tools. Sensors are available. How we deliver the data and how we engineer the devices that transmit sensor data is still anyone’s game. The first of MC10’s skin-mounted sensors are slated to launch next year, and when they do, I would recommend it to anyone in need of monitoring or detecting vital signs for health.
5) Best “Communication Fast Forward” Pebble
Ah, Pebble, my rock. Pebble is not a tracking device per se, nor particularly aesthetically pleasing. But it is so, so useful. Pebble was the highest funded project ever on Kickstarter, raising over $10m on its intended $100k goal.
Any incoming communication transmitted into a user’s phone: Words with Friend or Facebook notifications, SMS messages, phone calls, or emails – come to Pebble. I would recommend Pebble to anyone who wants to actively and more easily monitor their incoming messages.
Primarily, Pebble allows me to go through my daily life without picking up my phone to check my messages. When Pebble vibrates, I can quickly look to my wrist to scan the incoming call or email and if needed, I can get my phone to reply (Pebble currently only fosters incoming-communications). Pebble has allowed me to streamline my communication and save time, putting it clearly in the Top 5. Pebble ($150) can be purchased at www.getpebble.com, or www.bestbuy.com.
Melissa Thompson is the founder and CEO of TalkSession, blogger at Q30, and is a member of GE & StartUp Health’s Entrepreneurship Program, as well as Springboard Enterprises’ Life Sciences Accelerator. Previously, Melissa was an analyst at Goldman Sachs as well as a technology and business development advisor to multiple startups. Melissa holds an MBA from Columbia Business School.
Article Photo by Ed Yourdon