“Because it was there,” famously replied British mountaineer and explorer George Mallory in response to the question, “Why did you climb Mount Everest?” Although likely apocryphal, the adventurer’s famous retort perfectly captures a common force driving innovation and new technologies around the world. We create because we can, we see opportunities to put things together in new ways, because they are there… but then what?
This is the position that many players in the consumer technology and wearables industry find themselves today. An impressive mountain range of technical achievements are being conquered with regularity and ease. Can we make the sensors small enough that it can be integrated into our daily lives? Can we track user location? Can we capture signals produced by the human body? Can we manufacture devices cheaply enough that people can afford them? Yes, yes, yes, and increasingly yes… but then what?
How do we supplant the initial awe of achievement with a lasting impact on the creation of healthier, happier, more productive lives? For these innovations to become integrated with our daily lives, a different challenge rises. How do we make the jump from novelty to necessary?
The answer is frustratingly simple and complex at the same time. Feedback and advice offered needs to be scientifically grounded and personally tailored to you, not a generalized model or a set of abstract recommendations, but designed for you and capable of informing real-world scenarios. This is especially true in the case of health, fitness and performance topics, but as you know, you are pretty complicated.
At the root of this challenge is the fact that your physiology is unique to you, and how your body works changes over time. Some of these changes are due to the natural aging process, others are tied to physical activity and lifestyle choices, each colored by your genetic composition. As a result, the raw physiological data we are increasingly adept at collecting these days requires interpretation before it can be truly useful.
Over a decade ago, Firstbeat began using neural networks, machine learning and artificial intelligence to make sense of and to map the dynamic functioning of human physiology, using heartbeat data as a window through which to look at the body. This technology decodes your physiology and opens the door for understanding how life, exercise, and environmental demands impact you. This innovative approach is the basis of a digital model of human physiology capable adaptable to the individual and capable of providing highly-personalized feedback and guidance.
In the past few months, a significant number of leading technology brands have signaled the maturation of the wearable sector by offering devices with new capabilities; as an example, they can actually detect, report, and help users manage their personal fitness levels. Instead of just looking up heart rate zones and percentages from a table, these devices are identifying real responses in the body and making sense of them.
Wearables capable of automatically detecting user fitness levels is just one of the many applications of Firstbeat innovations. It also serves as a prime example of how applying research and scientific breakthroughs to new industry leads to progress. And when it comes to changing the world, sometimes reaching the summit is just the beginning.