Living smart with smart bands

By: | Published: February 24, 2015 12:45 AM

Smart bands are becoming mass, now it is up to us to use them intelligently

Unless technology evolves drastically over the coming year, this, for me, is the model that can change the way we use wearable bands.Unless technology evolves drastically over the coming year, this, for me, is the model that can change the way we use wearable bands. (Representational image)

The wearable band is finally becoming mainstream. In 2014, over 4.6 million smart wearable bands were sold, according to research firm Canalys. Many millions more were sold in the basic band segment. The two segments are growing at a brisk pace, with the former powered by Android Wear and devices running Samsung’s Tizen OS. The latter does basic activity tracking and is dominated by devices from FitBit and Jawbone.

While people are buying wearable devices by the hordes, it is hard to be convinced that all of them use these devices. A lot of those use wearable bands as watches (with a few tricks up the sleeve); others track their activity through the day while a small minority use the gimmicky apps that come with the smart wearable devices.

In 2015, more people will buy the wearable band, especially in emerging markets like India. This is because the basic band is becoming really cheaper and can work with even the cheapest of Android devices. The push in India might come when Xiaomi brings in its hugely people Mi Band at a very affordable price-point. The band—which is priced at just $13 in most countries, and has sold over a million units across the world, with over 1,00,000 units sold in just one day (when Xiaomi had a special flash sale). Bring this band—or any other—to India at under R1,000, and millions will buy it here too, whether they want to use it or not.

The basic band will be successful also because there are now many good apps that let you track your life. The average band tells you home many steps you took during a day, how many kilometres that is and how much calories such walking would burn. If the band does not have a display to track this data, it will reflected on the band’s smartphone app. Even basic bands can tell you how long you slept, though you would have to wear the band to bed. The problem with using these bands to achieve fitness and health goals is that it is hard to keep yourself motivated. This is where a bit of offline help can come in handy.

In India, over the past few months, at least two companies that offer offline assistance supplementing a wearable band and a smartphone app were launched. The first was GOQii from Indiagames founder Vishal Gondal, where trainers push you to achieve real life goals. But the trainer does not come for free and you have buy an annual subscription along with the band.

I have not used the GOQii, but over the past fortnight I have been using the HealthifyMe app and the Rist band that comes with it. Founded by Tushar Vashisht and Matthew Cherian, HealthifyMe has a model similar to GOQii, but stands out because it has a very good app. In fact, the app claims to have the first Indian calorie tracker, one that lets you track anything from khicdi to butter chicken and throws up their shocking calorie counts in a jiffy. The Rist is a very basic band, but does its job of telling you how much calories you are burning through the day. And when you also start logging your meals using the app, the three experts that come with your subscription have a good idea of where to steer you. And they keep giving directions over the phone, through the app and even on Whatsapp. The experts are relentless—after all, they are on a mission. But the targets are not hard enough for you to call it quits, at least not in a fortnight.

Unless technology evolves drastically over the coming year, this, for me, is the model that can change the way we use wearable bands. In fact, the day every gym membership comes with a band is not that far away. As with any data, the intelligent bit is how you use it in the end. While smart bands and wearables will give us lots of data about ourselves, it will all depend on how we use this data to our benefit. That is when these bands will become truly smart.

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