Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Wearables: The quest for the missing killer app?

I am a happy Fitbit user for more than a year and a half now, recently my family gave me a Samsung Gear S as a present, so at this point you can already subscribe me to the list of the ones who bought into the wearable computing promise, the Internet of Things (IoT), and the Internet of Everything (IoE).

Source: Fitbit.com

I use my Fitbit band almost all the time, I also use a very often its excellent smart phone app and the linked cloud service.
I use the band/app/cloud trio mostly for everyday health tracking and casual sports. I believe that this device is a clear, simple, and pragmatic example of the the Internet of Things (IoT) potential.
Fitbit has very active community of third party developers creating even more and specialized value for Fitbit product owners, check the list of cool and useful Fitbit apps in their Partnerships page.
The FitBit's OTB mobile app is already a killer app, and many of the third party ones too, making the whole device + apps + service experience a very compelling ecosystem.

The arrival of the spectacular Samsung Gear S to my left wrist did not necessarily retire my lovely and none-intrusive Fitbit Flex (the minimalist model in the current product lineup); which has found a new comfortable home around my right wrist.

You may argue that the Gear S' rich features represents a super set of the Fitbit Flex functionality, therefore I should be replacing the previous and modest gadget with the newer a fancier one.
However I have discovered that there are different use cases for each of the wearables and I found that I have my own personal use cases for each of them, making the two wearables to coexistence in right and left hand harmony.

For instance the Gear S is a bit too delicate and somehow expensive (arguably unsafe) for playing soccer, whereas the soft and light rubber body of the Fitbit Flex is great for those 90 minutes on the pitch.
Despite its fanciness the Gear S is not the most comfortable thing when you want to track your sleep, instead, I can wear the Flex in bed without feeling that is even there.

After pondering the benefits of the minimalist Fitbit flex let's recognize that the Samsung Gear S is a much more advance device with many more capabilities and processing power. We are talking about a smart sensor with basic user feedback and connectivity in the case of the Flex band compared with a true wearable computer in the case of the Gear S.

So, here you have me, dreaming with the endless possibilities of a sensors-charged Android device around my wrist, and ready to take advantage of a world of apps that make my everyday life much more exciting and productive.

But here it comes the partial bubble busting feeling:
I am using many of the Gear S pre-installed apps and I have downloaded several others. However, beyond the usual -and useful- suspects (Time, Weather, Messages Feed, Music Playing, Step Counter, Heart Rate, Calendar, and others) I did not yet have discovered a game changing app (or set of apps) that can give a true new user experience dimension to my e-life.
These type of apps are often called Killer Apps, an app or two that are that useful that act as the catalytic factor for the adoption of a device, driving the core of the customer value and even the buying decision for the product.
I feel that I have all this tremendous hardware power in my hand, but not yet the software to harness and unleash all that potential.

Ironically, the Samsung Gear S is a phenomenal device, so the hardware is not the issue, my theory is that it is the absence of the killer app!
I recognize that many fantastic Samsung Gear S killer apps may exist out there and I did not discovered them yet. I can also see how this could be a matter of mismatch between what is out there so far and my particular needs and use cases.

I will not minimize the developer community writing Samsung Gear software, the list of apps keeps growing, I am sure that there is more out there (and more coming) beyond what I can appreciate so far in my early contact with this ecosystem, I am anxious to find out more.



In addition, when I look around and I see outside the wearables, I observe that other manifestations of the Internet of Things (IoT) are sometimes suffering a similar killer app lacking syndrome, for instance when you look at the connected home space, there already hundreds of devices and services in the market already to manage your termostat, lights, door locks, audio system, and other areas of your home from your smart phone wherever you are. While certainly cool and useful for many use cases, those capabilities are only scratching the surface on what a true IoT home could be.

The reality is that the platform for the IoT-connected home is already here today and growing, many large and small companies are working on more devices and applications to maximize the power of IoT in our homes.
Just as an example check what Wink is doing by partnering with many major connected home and IoT players.



However, when it comes to the home IoT, the same principle described before for wearables also applies here, these home gadgets need to be accompanied by on ore more killer apps, software functionality that can really deliver customer value by solving true needs or proposing better and new ways of doing our daily tasks.

Coming back to the wearables and the smart watches...
If you are a smart watch user too, Do you have the same feeling of half fulfillment?
If your are contemplating the idea of a smart watch, Are you asking yourself?: Cool, but... What will I use it For?

With the objective of finding the North in my quest for the smart watch killer app and also with the spirit of learning more about this space, I will leave my readers with the following questions:


  1. What is your your own personal experience with Samsung Gear, Apple Watch, or any other smart watches so far?
  2. Did you find a killer app for it?
  3. If so, which one/s?


Please comment on this blog post or send me a Twitter message, I would love to hear your feedback.

Thanks for stopping by and reading!

Juan Noceda.