One of the biggest trends that has accelerated the growth of mobile devices over the last decade has been the marriage of technology and the liberal arts. These devices have opened up a myriad of creative avenues to the mass market, from painting applications, music creation tools and photography sharing and enhancement.
This decade, the first in the post-PC era, we will witness a symbiosis of technology and biology in consumer devices. The continued advancement of sensors in small devices and high speed connectivity will enable technology to track our health and activity in every detail.
As our population grows older, more obese, and our economy is strained, the need for technology to step in and provide self-monitoring tools will be crucial. It will be a lucrative market that will be flooded with startups looking to build wearable devices at the cross section of health, mobile and technology.
These products will enable us to better monitor our health. Friendly reminders to exercise, warnings about high blood sugar levels, and in extreme cases, automatically signalling ambulances and doctors when we need critical attention.
The Nike+ Fuelband is not the first of these devices that helps track our activity levels, but it’s probably the best. The device tracks your activity levels and converts it to a system Nike calls ‘Fuel Points’. You set your fuel goal each day through the iPhone app or Nike+ website, and the idea is to reach and exceed your goal each day.
The more energy you exert, the more points you get. It also tracks your calories and steps taken, which is great added context to the Fuel Points system, which is a more esoteric measurement not familiar to many.
However after a period of time using the device, you come to realise that it doesn’t matter too much how it calculates these points - you just want to keep beating your daily fuel goal.
The great thing about the Fuelband is that it acts as a constant reminder to stay active. Instead of sitting at your desk during your work lunch break, you now get up and go for a walk to ensure you reach your target.
The design of the band itself is very functional and comfortable. Rows of small, bright LED’s inform you of your fuel points used and other data. There is just one button on the front to toggle between the different data sets, and it also acts as sync button when held down for a few seconds. Yes, it syncs through bluetooth to the iPhone app, and this works without a hitch. You can also sync through the website using the USB cord if you want to do it old-school. In either case, all your activity data is pushed to the cloud.
The band itself is lightweight, yet it feels sturdy. I don’t feel like I’m going to break it if I toss it in a backpack or drop it on concrete. The band’s material is rubber which is prone to catch lint and scuff up, but I haven’t found it a problem. I hope in future hardware they make the band a little thinner.
The Nike+ service is accessible through the free iPhone app and the website. I find the app much easier to use, and syncing through bluetooth is far easier than plugging in through USB. The Nike+ service through both the app and website graphs your activity levels over time, includes various gamification mechanics and gives you the ability to share your results with your friends across Facebook and Twitter.
If you are interested in improving your activity levels, the Nike+ Fuelband is a great product. It will remind you to move, not through annoying notifications but simply due to it’s persistent presence on you wrist. The points system will drive you to keep reaching your daily goals, which serves as a great motivator. It’s also a beautifully designed product with it’s unassuming design, which contrasts with the futuristic LED indicator lights. Expect to get some attention when wearing the Fuelband.