Sonny Vu, CEO of Misfit Wearables, on the future of wearables

By Kyle McInnes on 5 Nov 2014 12:52 pm

Misfit Wearables has had some great success in the wearable tech space. Its first product, Shine, is an activity tracker with fashion appeal. The product, according to CEO Sonny Vu, wasn't even taken seriously by the company until its massive success on Indiegogo. Before they launched the Indiegogo page, Sonny wasn't entirely sure why people were buying activity trackers and whether or not it was a passing fad. More than $800,000 later, Shine was crowdfunded and on its way to production. This product also kickstarted the company into the wearable industry, and led it to get a much better understanding of the wearable space and where it's going. This was the focus of Sonny Vu's talk at Web Summit 2014.

Sonny says there are a few major ways that wearables are evolving in terms of design and implementation. From a design perspective, there's a transitionary phase happening in wearable tech that's reminiscent of how many modern tech products have transitioned. Just like Apple laptops went from bulky PowerBooks to the slim MacBook Airs, wearables are going from bulky and awkward to sleek and camouflaged. Just look at the difference between the first Fitbit Classic and the current Fitbit wristband. This design transition will only continue as wearables begin to camouflage into things we wear regularly such as watches and jewellery.

From an implementation perspective, we're seeing a transition of wearables becoming more useful and providing greater utility to the user. A big part of understanding whether a wearable is useful is the "Turnaround Test". The Turnaround Test is whether you would go home to grab a product if you were on your way to work and realized you had forgotten it. We would all turnaround and grab our smartphone, even if it added a half hour to our morning commute, simply because it's that important. Would you turn around for your Fitbit? Probably not. Especially if you were sitting at your desk all day anyways. As wearables become more ingrained in our life for things that matter, they will increasingly pass the Turnaround Test. For example, if you used a wearable instead of a wallet, or you needed it to get into your office, you'd almost certainly turn around for it.

Here is a quick summary of some of the differences in use cases between 1.0 wearables and 2.0 wearables:

Wearables 1.0

  • Sensing: brain waves, heart rate, sleep and activity tracking.
  • Medical: glucose levels and medicine reminders.
  • Smartwatch: gps tracking and alerts.

Wearables 2.0

  • Safety: emergency response and monitoring.
  • Identification: lock, login and payments.
  • Controls: HVAC, music, lights and gestures.

In wrapping up his talk, Sonny gave a basic formula for how to consider whether a wearable is successful. It's a simple set of rules and looks like this: wear all the time, for a long time, by a lot of people.

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Sonny Vu, CEO of Misfit Wearables, on the future of wearables