Sensors are everywhere, but what products
By Chad Lucien, Senior Vice President, Sales & Marketing,
The Consumer Electronic Show (CES) will be defined by more sensors, in more products,
in more categories than ever before. Incredibly, one in 10
U.S. adults own an activity tracker today. The latest smartphones contain as many as 16 sensors, and with Google
Fit and Apple’s Healthkit, the latest operating systems put
sensor data at the heart of the smartphone. Augmented and
virtual reality devices, such as Google Glass and Oculus Rift,
are constantly in the news, and the promise of the Internet
of Things (Io T) is ringing loudly (even if it is not yet resonating with you).
So how are all of these products going to make our lives
better? We’ve all seen headlines reporting that one-third of
consumers are abandoning wearable devices, that virtual
reality has failed before (and will again), and that no one
needs a smartwatch. Is this all just technology for technology’s sake or is there real value for us as consumers?
Yes, many of these products are just an amalgamation
of features seemingly thrown together to stay current with
the latest trends. Yes, there are innovative products that
are providing real end-user value. As the sensor technology
which underlies these products has matured, users no longer
see these products as futuristic novelties but are evaluating
whether products deliver a compelling user experience. Suc-
cessful companies will figure out what matters to end-users
and focus on creating products that deliver tangible value to
I’m always reminded of the amazing reaction to the
original iPod back
in 2001. Launched
with the tag-line
‘1000 songs in your
pocket’, the value
to the consumer was
immediate and clear.
Compare that to some modern wearables, which have a feature list as long as your arm, and you can see why consumers may stop using or even avoid purchasing the products.
At CES this year, the trick will be to find those products
that have a crisp, clear, end-user value and present it in an
elegant way. So let’s take a look at a few of the products that
appear to be on the right track.
Useful smartwatches and activity trackers
Activity trackers are closest to being a mature wearable
category, and smartwatches have also reached their second
or third genera-
tion of products.
We are starting
to see some segmentation among
with differentiation ranging from a focus on fashion, to
a focus on end-users with a common need, or providing
that often-needed encouragement to get moving. The
Moto 360 and Withings Activité smartwatches are fashion
statements — beautiful designs that are aimed at users
who care about style as well as the technology. Smash is a
wearable bracelet that helps tennis players to analyze their
technique. These are just a few examples of the specialization which will be key to wider adoption and greater
longevity of wearable devices.
Concussion monitoring – Linx IAS:
Up to 3. 8 million people per year are affected by a sports- or
recreation-related brain injury, according to a 2013 Institute
of Medicine report. The Linx Impact Assessment System
(IAS) is a real-time sports impact monitoring system that
uses sensors embedded in a head-worn device to help users
manage potential concussions. While this is not a new category, its awareness is growing, and the Linx IAS promises to
provide real-time feedback to coaches, parents, and medical
professionals in early 2015.
Healthy back – Valedo:
Back pain can severely impact your quality of life. Valedo
pairs a body worn device that has a gyroscope, accelerometer, and magnetometer together with a mobile app that gives
you therapeutic exercises to train your back into shape. The
game-style exercises motivate users to exercise their backs
and use the motion sensors to provide feedback and quantify the performance improvements as they go through the
Bicycle safety – Visijax:
Cyclists often share the road with cars, trucks, and pedestrians,
which creates safety hazards for all involved. The Visijax commuter jacket has motion sensors in the arms that automatically
activate LED turning signals on the jacket when you raise your
arms to signal a turn, just as cyclists normally do. This gives
drivers and pedestrians a heads-up on the cyclist’s next move,
day or night.
Better smart TVs – LG
Smart TV is another
product category that
has suffered from a long
feature list held back by
a poor user experience.
Figure 1. The iPod had a clear value
proposition; new CE devices need this
Figure 2. The Moto 360: A fashionable
wearable device. (All photo credits:
Figure 3. LG WebOS TV: Making
smart TV simple.