Looking to the future, there are indications that the successful wearables of tomorrow will utilize user data to provide prescriptive feedback.
Research and conversations with industry insiders over the past year have revealed a shift in user expectations for wearables targeting health, fitness, and performance sectors. As wearables have improved in their ability to describe our activities and routines, many find themselves looking for insight into what they, the user, should do instead of simply showing what they have done.
Speaking at Firstbeat HRV Summit 2018, industry influencer and expert reviewer Ray Maker (DC Rainmaker) succinctly captured this point:
“I think the most important thing for wearable device manufacturers to focus on is making the data easy to understand, and giving not just actionable data but prescriptive data… something you can actually do, so that people know what the next right thing is… we should be able to give people one thing they can do to improve that day, to improve that week, or improve that month from a fitness or a health standpoint.”
Another frequently encountered user-driven narrative in our research describes a desire for more big-picture, comprehensive feedback.
As technology has become increasingly adept at recognizing and interpreting various aspects of life like sleep duration and quality, stress, daily activity, and exercise, some users have begun to notice that something is still missing. Specifically, they are looking to know how these independent – but clearly related – aspects of life come together to dynamically impact our overall health and personal well-being.
The recently introduced Firstbeat powered Body Battery feature onboard the Garmin vívosmart 4 is a pioneering step forward on this frontier. User energy levels are reported in real-time throughout the day by combining interpretations of physical activity with HRV-derived stress, recovery and sleep quality data.
A similar concept was introduced onboard the Suunto 3 Fitness in the form of a Resources graph that utilized a different presentation concept to bring those same diverse but related elements together.
The ability of wearables to detect and monitor changes in cardiorespiratory fitness, measurable in terms of VO2max, unlocked another front in the technological effort to provide better insight into big-picture personal health topics.
Mounting evidence shows that increases in VO2max, typically achievable through regular moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity, are directly related to improved personal well-being, longevity, and lower health care costs.
As the number of wearable devices offering VO2max to users has grown, so too have opportunities for better, more relatable interpretation of this feedback. There is still room for improvement when it comes to helping users make sense of this insight, and more importantly, engaging users with the personally relevant guidance they need to improve their own health and fitness.
Not surprisingly, demands for more prescriptive feedback and more comprehensive metrics that bring multiple aspects together coalesces among running enthusiasts, triathletes, and other endurance-oriented athletes.
Users in these traditional segments of the wearable market describe hopes of seeing more heart rate variability (HRV) derived sleep quality and all-day stress tracking data integrated into personal recovery recommendations and adaptive training guidance.
Research shows that this kind of data could be a particularly effective resource for maximizing the benefits of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which (when scheduled properly), can have a significant impact on performance development.
Finally, there are still a segment of wearable users who hope to access more raw data from their wearables. This sentiment is particularly common among early adopters and those eager to improve their understanding of how various insights and feedback elements are produced.
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