Tag Archives: wearables

Some thoughts on insurance companies and the use of wearable technology

When it comes to insurance and wearables, I think the effect of these devices will be limited. I think this because:

  1. I don’t believe people are consistent about using wearables. I have been using wearables and fitbits for some time. I believe most people are prone to not wearing them constantly. Inconsistent use will make it harder for insurers to guarantee you a  better rate or for you to achieve one.
  2. You are more likely to wear it and use it when you are trying to keep in shape. If you are not, you will likely not wear it. The insurer can’t know if you are getting out of shape or just no longer wearing it. (I used to use a Nike+ device for running, and I ran consistently, but I did not use the device consistently. Many days and weeks I just didn’t feel like it.) The use of wearables is mostly an upside for you, and of limited value to the insurer.
  3. One reason I gave up on using wearables consistently is that they don’t give you much new information. I walk and exercise consistently and so they often give me the same information consistently. Which means I tend to not wear them often. I don’t need the fitbit to tell me I walked 10,000 steps. I know I did because my commute to and from work plus my lunchtime walk consistently gives me that.
  4. My fitbit scale is great for tracking my weight over time, but an insurer could also just ask me my weight, height and waistline and get a sense of my eligibility for insurance, just like how they ask if I smoke. A very low tech way to measure things. Men with a waist over 40 inches are more prone to heart disease then men with much smaller waists, regardless of what a high tech scale says. A insurer needs a limited number of data points to assess your health risks.
  5. I believe there is limited return for insurers to get this much data. I base this on my current life insurer. I can get life insurance from 1-6X my salary (assuming I pay the corresponding rise in premiums) without providing medical data. They only ask for medical data if I ask for more than 6X. It likely isn’t of benefit for them to process the data for lower amounts, so they proceed without it.
  6. Insurers are data driven, for sure, but I think they are good at picking out a limited number of good numbers to determine what to charge you for insurance. I don’t think the numbers coming back from wearable tech is all that good.

So in short, I don’t believe people or insurers will get much benefit from wearable tech. People will not get breaks on their insurance, and insurers will not be able to reduce their risk substantially with the use of wearables.

Ten ad hoc thoughts on the Apple Watch from me

  1. It already looks like the Watch is a big success. If anything, what has surprised me is that Apple doesn’t seem to have sufficient quantity in stock to meet the demand. I am not surprised by the success: I am surprised by the breakdown** in the supply chain. (** Further reporting may show that to be not true).
  2. The timing of the Watch is perfect. What do you think will make a great present for young people as they graduate from schools and universities? Yep. Who do you think doesn’t own a watch currently? Yep, same group.
  3. The size of the Watch will likely be a non issue, now and in the future. I’d like it thinner myself, but there have been previous Apple devices that I thought were not ergonomically ideal, and they did just fine. Plus, we have become spoiled: the original iPod and iPhone slimmed down over time, but were still successful in various formats. The same will be said for the watch.
  4. The price is a non-issue too. People pay $179 (in Canada) for a Nano and $249 or more for an iPod Touch. The watch is another price point, but not all that far away from them. What is interesting is that Apple has products from under $100 (the Shuffle), to the Nano, the Touch, to iPad,  the Watch, to the iPhone, to the laptops. If you consider the Apple an aspirational product, that is smart. You can acquire an Apple product at different price points, and once you get them, you are likely to be more inclined to get the new product from them. That happened to me: I went from having no Apple devices to having a shuffle, then a touch, than a phone, then an iPad. I expect to eventually get a laptop from them too. You get used to the quality and the interoperability.
  5. The benefit of the Watch, which I have seen with my Pebble, is that I can keep aware of alerts without looking at my phone. I expect alot of people will love that.
  6. People who think the Apple Watch is just a watch likely think the iPhone is just a telephone. As we all know, the iPhone is a small computer that allows us to make phone calls but really does so much more. The Apple Watch is an even smaller computer that tells us the time but really does much more.
  7. Application developers will drive the Watch to greater success. The new device will drive new applications that couldn’t be written on other devices. The apps will make the watch go from Nice to Have to Must Have.
  8. Copycat hardware makers will also drive success. You can bet that Korean and Chinese hardware manufacturers will be coming out with their own watches soon (and some already have). Soon smart watches will be as common as smart phones.
  9. Expect an explosion of watch bands and other accessories for the watch. Also, you will see that people will own more than one Watch (something they are unlikely to do with other tech, like phones or laptops).
  10. As for the future? If you still believe in Moore’s Law like I do, eventually the Watch will not need the iPhone to work. Also, the future will only see more wearable technology, and I expect the Watch to play a big part in that.

The pros and cons of FitBits and other wearable fitness devices (plus my own thoughts)

Here’s two recent pieces on the pros and cons of wearable fitness devices.

Pro: Wearables and Self-Awareness (Personal) – NYTimes.com.

Con: Science Says FitBit Is a Joke | Mother Jones

I tend to agree with Krugman’s pro views in the NYTimes.  In a nutshell, Krugman’s view is that having a tracker like a FitBit makes it harder to lie to yourself about your fitness. A FitBit will let you know and help you track when you are active or sedentary, just like a scale will tell you when you are eating too much or too little.

The Mother Jones article has good points, too. FitBits have limits. They aren’t for all kinds or exercise, they may not be precise, and some apps on a smartphone can do just as good a job. That said, their title is a joke and their article is misleading. For example, trackers start at much lower than $100. As well, for people walking or running, carrying a smartphone is not always a good option. FitBits are more accurate than the article let’s on, and the readings that they provide is a reasonably close measure of your activity. The limits to wearable fitness devices are real, but Mother Jones overstate their case.

Do you or I need any of these devices? No. Based on my fitbit, I can walk a mile in about 2000 steps. If I were to sit down with a free service like Google maps, I could easily plot out a 5 mile walking route that, if I walked daily, would mean I would  hit at least 10,000 steps a day. (10,000 steps is my daily goal). Or I could just go for an hour walk and not worry about a route at all. (It takes me around that time to walk 5 miles if I walk it at a good pace.) Either way, a map or a watch can easily replace a wearable device. If you can’t afford or don’t want a wearable device, just use a map, a watch, and a log book, and you will get similar benefits.

Why I like my FitBit is that it does the work for me. I can walk anywhere I want, for as long as I want, and it will keep track of all that for me. Plus it keeps a ongoing record I can look up when I want. Finally, like Krugman noted, it prevents me from lying to myself about how active I am.

A wearable device is an aid, and like any aid, it helps you achieve your desired outcome. If you don’t need such an aid, don’t use it. As for me, the fitbit helps me meet my fitness goals and I am glad I have it.

Forget Google Glass: here is where wearable technology is going

As digital technology gets more and more compact, expect to start seeing it combined with new and unexpected things. Wearables will not just be watches and sports-bands, but clothing and jewellery. For example: Meet Ear-o-Smart The World’s First Smart Earring.

Anything you wear, anything you touch, anything you own: all of it will soon have sensors and digital technology in it to talk to your computer and your phone. This is just starting.

Google Glass is dead

And the BBC has a good story on it here: BBC News – Google Glass sales halted but firm says kit is not dead, including this comment that sums things up in a nutshell:

Google has tried to present this announcement as just another step in the evolution of an amazing innovation. But make no mistake – Google Glass is dead, at least in its present form.

I would say it’s been dead for sometime, and while wearable technology is alive and well, this piece of it is long overdue to be written off.

Read the BBC story: it has a good review of the history of Glass, what will happen next, and why Glass never had traction.