Shashwat Pradhan Shashwat Pradhan

The Quantified Self movement growing in 2017

There are millions of people around the world who may not even have heard the term lifelogging or the Quantified Self but are self-tracking through an app or fitness tracker. In 2017 billions of smartphones have great sensors that consume minimal power, we have millions of cheap fitness trackers & smartwatches and we also do have a few internet of things that people are using to track their lives.

Thinking of the entire Quantified Self movement in a simple way, almost every smartphone user is tracking some part of their lives on a daily basis. It can be as simple as productivity or steps to more complex parameters like mood or reproductive cycles. In the past year, we have seen some adoption of fitness trackers and smartwatches at some scale. Millions of Apple Watches were sold last year as Apple is working hard on adding more use cases to the device through software innovations. On the other hand, we have seen lots of $10 fitness trackers like the ones from Xiaomi. Then on a much smaller scale we have Internet of Things like the Beddit Sleep monitor selling thousands of devices to end users. On the other hand we saw Kickstarter success stories like Pebble and the Hello Sleep-Tracker shut down recently.

Mobile apps that are helping people track their lives are reaching billions of people. Especially around areas like sleep tracking and steps. With Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Computer Vision technologies improving and being available at scale to developers, we are seeing mobile self-tracking apps going to the next level. For example apps that are letting people track their calories through photos or chatbot coaches that are helping people lose weight. Smartphones are becoming the device to introduce people to self-tracking or even helping them sustain their tracking on a long term. Even as a Quantified Self enthusiast, I never manage to keep up with my smartwatches or even smart scale for self-tracking. I end up coming back to my smartphone since it is the most convenient way for me to track my life.

Moving to smartwatches and fitness trackers. We are seeing Fitbit decline in market share with cheaper tracker & smartwatches being available. Just like we saw in the smartphone market a few years back where cheaper devices came in pushing down the higher end of the market. Though these fitness trackers have surprisingly low retention rates. It would be really interesting to see some metrics around their active users rather than simple sales. On the other hand, Apple and Google are pushing their smartwatch platforms. Android Wear 2.0 brought an interesting use case of independent SIM enabled smartwatches. Apple is building around the user experience and app platform with WatchOS 4.  The Apple Watch has seen a decent scale adoption, especially in the US because of its price. We can expect it to see some growth in other markets over the years as prices come down.

Cycling Quantified Flat
Wearables are adding great value for sports like cycling and swimming

The third category that includes self-tracking Internet of Things has seen some hits and misses. Withings saw some popularity for their smart scales since it was a great use case. (They are now under Nokia) On the other hand lots of these IoTs don’t make it past their Kickstarter launch, with only a very small niche of Quantified Self enthusiasts being interested in them. Places like the Apple Store have surely managed customer education for these products. At the end, it all comes down to how much additional value do these devices create over a smartwatch or a simple mobile app. IoTs that are helping people track and resolve their health issues are bringing in major consumer interest. In a longer term we are seeing lots of innovation in this space from the academic community. They are experimenting with new wearables and IoTs to help us track our health in a better way. After Heart Rate monitors, I see there is major scope for innovation in blood sugar monitors and better sleep trackers.

Looking forward to seeing talks from the ongoing Quantified Self Conference 2017, that will give us a good idea of the new areas that lifeloggers are tracking.