10+1 Commandments For Companies Developing Wearable Health Trackers
Throughout the last couple of years, I have tested and used about 150 devices and gadgets that measure health parameters or vital signs. From the very first Fitbit to A.I.-driven portable ultrasounds, the evolution is real, and I am delighted to have had the opportunity to watch it first-hand.
I also use a dozen health trackers to live healthily on a daily basis. Even before the wearable revolution started to unfold – just as I described in The Guide to the Future of Medicine -, I used data in an Excel spreadsheet to know more about my health and boost my motivation. Nowadays, it is unimaginable for me to go out for a run without measuring data. Therefore I thought it was high time to share the 10+1 commandments every company and start-up developing wearable health trackers should follow. Please feel free to add yours.
Here is my advice for companies and start-ups eager to develop wearable health trackers.
1) Don’t provide a value you cannot explain!
When a device shows me values without clear explanations of what they mean, I feel disappointed as if I missed an opportunity. If you can provide a specific value, assign a practical explanation to it. You can show me what period of my running session I spent in power/strength mode, but I don’t know what it means. Perfusion index sounds great but how could it be applied to my lifestyle? My Withings watch informs me about my “fitness level”, without any explanation of what these levels mean or how they are calculated.
Please only show us things you can clearly explain. The quest is not to measure more and more but to make better and better decisions about how to live healthily.
Good example: Wahoo
2) Don’t make me charge your gadget every day!
I’m not in a relationship with the device therefore I don’t want to deal with it every day. If you cannot develop something that can survive for days without a battery change, there are other industries to invest in. I charge my Withings watch once or twice a month. The Wahoo run tracker has a year of battery life. But when my old Withings Pulse started to require charging every day, I stopped using it.
Good example: Withings Scanwatch
3) Focus on one practical thing!
You might be able to develop a device that can measure a dozen things from ECG and oxygen saturation to stress levels and attention. But if you offer so many options, how will you find your target audience, if there is any? Design a device that can help with one important thing. Whether I want to lose weight; get better at paying attention; run more regularly or reduce stress levels; I would rather buy a device that helps me solve that problem than another one intended for everybody under any circumstances. That sends the wrong message.
Good example: AliveCor
4) Recognise that you need us, users!
It’s impossible that you design something amazing without being in contact with those who will use your invention. You have great ideas, but I’m the one using your device at the end of the day, I suffer from its error messages and enjoy its advantages. Create a social media profile through which we can contact you. Actually, we want to work for you because if you develop better things, our life becomes simpler. Use this free consulting service and let us talk to you. It’s not only about customer support, but rather trust in general. And take care of your audience, Fitbit, which used to be one of the good examples of this principle became the opposite by completely ignoring user feedback for years.
Good example: we are still looking for one
5) Troubled syncing can make me stop using your product
A few devices, such as Withings, tell me I need to synchronize them manually. And even when I do, it does not always work. Others, like my Fitbit, are said to synchronize automatically. And still, sometimes data are missing. I don’t want to deal with that. I thought synchronizing would not be an issue by now. Either make it truly automatic or really user-friendly, but this is crucial.
Good example: Apple Watch (within its own Ecosystem)
6) You lose me without gamification
I might be a very motivated person, but measuring pure data is not enough. Design a system that makes me hooked on your solution. Fitbit sends me weekly summaries of my activities. Lumosity shows me what percentage of people in my age group is better than me. Withings Blood Pressure creates a very clear, colour-coded graph about my blood pressure measurements. So just to make it clear, I advise you to make me addicted to you!
Good example: Muse
7) Create a community!
Finding someone to discuss data measured by devices is difficult. I needed to create a social media network of tens of thousands of people for it. Not everyone has this opportunity. You could develop a community of like-minded and motivated individuals on your website or use a Twitter hashtag invented by you. What matters is that developing a device is not enough. And creating such a network is so easy, you should not miss this chance to tie more users to your invention.
Good example: FitBit
8) Help us interpret the data!
Interpreting data can be a huge burden on users and can stop people from using your product in the long run. I need to be a doctor, a researcher and a geek to get the most out of my data. Instead, companies developing these devices could provide a clear understanding of what conclusions I can draw from what I measure. Your responsibility does not stop at creating the device. Actually, it starts there.
Good example: BioBeat
9) Bluetooth pairing is not rocket science
Issues with pairing numerous devices via Bluetooth is the Blue Death of the 21st century. I cannot count how many times I had to deal with it either because the device got unpaired by itself; another phone paired with it by chance, or they could not find each other. This should not be an issue at all. I pair the device in seconds once, and that works for as long as I want. Without knowing plenty of tricks about how my smartphone works, I could not have solved many of these issues. The majority of your users have not ever heard about these tricks so they will just give up.
Good example: BioBeat
10) Not updating apps is like giving up on us
You develop a device, bring it to the market and I buy it. Whatever the device is capable of, it is going to be the same forever. But apps can change. With many devices, I take more time looking at their apps than the device itself. Build upon this opportunity and update the apps behind your invention as regularly as possible. And please don’t even think about developing something if you can only release an iOS or Android version. If you do not have both, even as an Android user, I will not buy your device.
Good example: There are many
+1) You are not only doing business, but you also help us live healthier
That is a crucial point. If your major intention is to make money, you already lost this battle. People will find this out very soon. If you want to help people live healthier lives, you create a chance for long-term success. Without your inventions, I couldn’t motivate myself to exercise every day. And when I feel that you really want to help me, I become even more motivated. Let’s cherish this relationship and build the pyramid of a “healthy life revolution” with good technologies.
I hope many companies will read this and share what they think. Until then, I grab some of my favourite gadgets and go out for a run enjoying the motivation they provide me with.
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