Making wearable technology meaningful: Part II

Sean O’Connor

In this series our designers, strategists and technologists have envisaged how wearable technology might better impact health care management. With the recent $4.1 billion valuation of fitbit it seems like we are on track to meet some analysts predictions that the wearables market will reach $12.6 billion with in the next three years. Wearables certainly offer huge business potential but to fulfill this prophecy we believe that we will need to shift away from creating solutions that target the general population with broad use cases and focus in on more specialized situations to for smaller groups of people.

Last week we looked at how wearables can help kids with type 1 diabetes. This week we take a look at a concept called Smart Buds, which takes on childhood obesity by helping kids change their diet and the way they think about food. We spoke to the team about the creation of Smart Buds:

What was the problem you were trying to solve?

We wanted to try to tackle childhood obesity, which we feel in many cases is an education problem. Kids don’t know what to eat so they pick foods based on what they think tastes good and they like to eat. We felt that if we can make eating nutritious foods fun, kids would feel empowered to make their own good decisions when they’re faced with them, like at school (versus their parent or environment dictating what they eat). So, we looked to see if there were ways to use technology, games and information to enable behavior change and help guide kids to make better food choices.”

Tell us about your design solution?

“We thought something wearable made sense because kids are going to be making food decisions all day, so the device (that they wear on their arms) would need to be present and accessible. We also wanted it to be fun since we are designing for young children, so we looked at bright colors and fun shapes inspired by real fruits and vegetables to serve as the Smart Bud caricatures. Lastly, it was important to create a relationship between the kids and their Smart Buds by letting the kids customize them. If we can make them care about their Smart Bud, then they will be more invested.”

What technology are you leveraging in your concept?

“The technology consists of the wearable (the Smart Bud), which transmits the information to an iPad via a Bluetooth connection. The technology for food scanning does exist today, but it becomes a matter of scale and a cost challenge. Some of the people who would benefit the most from this concept would be lower income families, so affordability of this technology is an issue. We think sponsorships from corporations and school funding to support the costs for lower income families would be a great way to supplement the cost for this type of technology.”

What’s the most important thing to consider when designing a wearable?

“Most wearables today are pretty tech-y, bland and generic looking – most of them actually stand out against someone’s personality instead of working with it. And this is the case for both adults and children. So when you’re trying to design for any kind of behavior change, you really need the wearable to fit into people’s lives and fit their personalities. Embracing personal style is the way to go.