Ahead of the imminent hustle and bustle of CES, I wanted to share our view on the Internet of Things, as seen from our unique vantage point here at Jawbone. In the last 12 months, we’ve seen countless new products unveiled – watches, trackers, clothes, smart gadgets for the home, self-driving cars – and undoubtedly this week will reveal many more. We salute all of the innovation, as this is how new great consumer experiences are born. But it’s always important to build products and services that solve real user problems – whether people are already seeking a solution to a problem, or they discover that they can’t live without a product after it has been presented to them.
At Jawbone, we embrace the promise of the Internet of Things. We see the huge value in having multiple sensors and wireless connectivity in every device, enabling people to connect seamlessly to everything around them, all in the service of a great experience for the customer. But the truth is the Internet of Things has yet to deliver on its promise. While there are a few great integrated experiences today, many products still have discrete applications that are just too complicated to use or to connect to. As a result, few devices really talk effectively to anything else. The worst part is that it is still very confusing for consumers.
The Internet of Things really needs an organizing principle – one that is less about the ‘things’ and more about the people at the center of those things. As such, at Jawbone, we prefer to talk about the Internet of You. The idea is in order for the Internet of Things to live up to its possibilities, it needs to be centered on the user and what they want. Not connecting because we can – connecting because we should. It’s a new era for technology in which the smart devices need to be working on our behalf, adapting to our needs, and conforming to our personal desires and intents. The key to that, we believe, is wearable technology. Wearable devices, with all of the rich information they can glean from being on the body and connected to one’s surroundings, can act as the perfect context engine for the user, enabling all of the other things around them to be truly smart.
What does that mean? What is a perfect context engine? Imagine all of the things in our smart homes actually knew what we wanted them to do without us having to tell them. Imagine your smart thermostat knew whether you were actually hot or cold. Imagine your car knew if you were agitated or falling asleep, and perhaps wouldn’t even start if you’d had too much too drink. What if your TV could play content suited to your mood? What if your personal trainer could see how you slept, moved and ate all day and nudge you when you need it? How amazing would our interactions with technology become? This is truly personalized computing. It is technology tailored to you, with your own data driving the experience.
In order to make this concept a reality, we first need to have smart devices that people will actually wear (and keep wearing). To really understand ‘you’, these devices need to stay on you day and night, without the need for constant charging, and be so comfortable and discreet that they practically disappear on the body. We call this 24/7 wearability. Everything about the device from the embedded systems, electronics, algorithms, plastics, ergonomics and aesthetic must be geared towards the customer wearing the device at all times. If that doesn’t happen, then the real promise of the Internet of Things can’t be realized – it becomes a castle in the air. This is exactly what we do at Jawbone. We create small, powerful, trackers like UP3, UP Move and UP24 – devices worn by millions of users, nearly 24 hours a day – that can become the context engines at the heart of the Internet of You.
Our underlying strategy goes beyond ‘hardware’ and ‘software’ thinking, and instead focuses on integrated systems. UP is not just a wristband – it’s a system that incorporates advanced tracking, sophisticated algorithms, engaging applications, data science and API partners. It’s a truly advanced platform that has grown a huge amount in the last few years. And in that time, we’ve built multiple third party integrations, opened our system to all major operating systems, and we’ve enabled over 2,500 partner applications to connect to UP. With the introduction of advanced multi-sensor products like UP3 we can create even deeper, more ambitious integrations in the future. It really starts to become magical.
As the wearables market has emerged rapidly, we (and our partners) have seen successful devices settling into distinct segments with specific use-cases that correspond to how long someone actually wears them. And we’ve also seen devices that cross between these segments and don’t gain as much critical mass. The market continues to grow and evolve, and as we move from the basics of tracking activity and sleep to sophisticated multi-sensor devices, wearables are poised to experience the same transition that mobile phones experienced as we went from feature phones to smartphones.
The applications that arise from this transition will be rich and incredible. But we can only deliver on these experiences by working openly with our partners and others. No individual company can make it all work for their customers on their own. So, the most important thing that could come out of CES this year isn’t any individual announcement or new product, but rather the shared understanding of what we can achieve together with open platforms and integrations. Consumer electronics and tech companies need to focus on doing the things they do best, and then partner in spaces where others are already innovating. Because when it comes to the Internet of Things, it’s the integrated applications that are the real game-changers. With that understanding, we can stop talking about the ‘things’ and start focusing on people and the experiences that really matter to them.