Making wearable technology meaningful: Part III

Sean O’Connor

The fitness and wellness sector is currently one of the hottest sectors for wearables with predictions that just under 80 million devices will be sold by 2016. However, many of these fitness wearables are general purpose and suffer a steep drop off in use over time. To deliver long-term value to people companies need to focus on very specific use cases and target sub-groups of the population rather than trying to reach everyone at once. Google’s recent announcement of its patient monitoring device targeting the niche use case of medical studies, is a great example of this principle in action.

We challenged our design teams to explore some of these potential use cases and create visions for what the future of wearable technology may hold. In the third part of this series we look at Moment, a fertility monitoring system designed to help couples conceive. We spoke with Nathaniel Giraitis, Associate Director, Strategy, about Moment.

What was the problem you were trying to solve?

Making a baby is a two-person job, but you wouldn’t know that from most of the fertility monitor systems in the market. Almost everything is skewed toward the woman – and most of it is very pink. As a result, women generally report to their male partner when it’s ‘go time,’ based on information they gather from their fertility trackers, causing undue stress between both partners. Additionally, most systems involve taking the woman’s temperature as soon as she wakes up – before she even sits up in bed – which can be a tedious chore with a wide margin of error. We wanted to create a non-invasive device that would alleviate stress and allow both parties to share in the process.”

The wearable tracks a woman’s basal body temperature while she sleeps. The tattoo format allows it to be discreet and unobtrusive, while the flexible circuitry creates a decorative pattern with personal meaning.

What technology are you leveraging in your concept?

“Using a wearable made the most sense because the device is tracking a woman’s basal body temperature, which is best measured in the middle of the night, when she is asleep. The ecosystem is a printed circuit tattoo, which the woman wears on her skin and connects wirelessly to a “his and hers” pair of apps. The tattoo measures a woman’s basal body temperature to predict when she will be most fertile, while the app also monitors the man’s lifestyle activities and offers him tips to improve his fertility. Printed circuit tattoo technology has been under development for about four years, and is undergoing clinical trials. They are powered and communicate via Near Field Technology (NFC) available in most phones today.

The app wirelessly pulls the data and tracks her temperature on a daily basis so she doesn’t have to.

Tell us about your design solution?

“The whole idea is to keep the couples in sync with one another, to find the right Moment for them. As a woman is approaching ovulation, her phone app will track in one color while her partner’s phone tracks in another. When she’s at her most fertile time, both the “him” and “her” colors blend into the same color, “syncing” the couple. As for the actual wearable, we wanted the tattoo to feel like a discreet, beautiful gift. Couples tell the world that they’re trying to conceive on their own terms, so we wanted the wearable to be a private matter.

The app translates the technical data into more human and personable communication.  The “his and hers” apps sync their colors and messaging when the couple is in the best window to conceive.

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

“Wearables need to know when to step forward, and when to step back. They can be novel objects on display (Fit Bit), camouflaged into existing products (Withings Activité), or sometimes not seen at all. Designers must consider when to put the emphasis on the object, and when to let it disappear.