What will it take to spur regular use of wearables? (Hint, better integration)

There’s little doubt that wearables are moving beyond a group of generic fitness trackers into customizable devices with the potential to produce data that gives users a whole new perspective on their health. But what should be some of the guidelines to consumers to use ? How should the data look? Where are sensor most […]

There’s little doubt that wearables are moving beyond a group of generic fitness trackers into customizable devices with the potential to produce data that gives users a whole new perspective on their health. But what should be some of the guidelines to consumers to use ? How should the data look? Where are sensor most useful.? That issue raised some interesting questions in a wearables panel on at the Connected Health Symposium in Boston this week.

It’s not what you say, it’s what you do At times, the session felt more like a sociology lesson than a discussion on digital health. Jen Hyatt, the CEO of London-based Big White Wall started off with a bit of a bleak assessment of contemporary life marked by isolation. Artificial intelligence could provide a form of companionship — since, theoretically, it would know people better than themselves. She pointed to dating websites and Netflix, which have used algorithms that do a better job of processing data from their users to show them the people and videos they are drawn to, frequently not necessarily what they say they want. Wearables that produce data that can give users new information about themselves could create an epiphany leading to real behavior change, Hyatt suggested. “Between what we say about our health and what we actually do is the crux” of potential health changes, she said. “If we can illuminate what we say is happening and what is actually happening, data has the ultimate power in showing us our real selves.”

Design principles around data should emphasize customization so that it’s suitable for the moment users need it.”Choice is fundamental,” said Hyatt. “Human beings need choices. I have issues with device developers who think you will have a relationship with [wearables] their entire life. “It’s hard enough developing that with human beings!”

Integration is key Withings President Philippe Schwartz emphasized the need for wearables to fit into uses daily routines to avoid the steep fall off in use that characterizes many of these devices. He trumpeted the benefits of his own company’s WiFi-enabled scale. People tend to weigh themselves every day, so it’s not like users are being asked to adopt a new step in their daily ritual, and that’s an advantage. He pointed to smart watches as an improvement on fitness trackers. “Form factor is crucial,” he added.

Facebook’s potential influence The social network’s interest in cultivating patient communities has Hyatt concerned over what it would do with patient data. “I know I’ll probably get a lot of angry emails about this….but Facebook scares me!”