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From Innovation to Impact: For Wearables the Summit is the Beginning

21 Feb 2017
“Because it was there,” replied British mountaineer and explorer George Mallory in response to the question, “Why did you climb Mount Everest?” Although likely apocryphal, the adventurer's famous retort perfectly captures a common force driving innovation and new technologies around the world. We create because we can, we see opportunities to put things together in new ways, because they are there… but then what?

This is the position that many players in the consumer technology and wearable industry find themselves today. An impressive mountain range of technical achievements are being conquered with regularity and ease. Can we make the sensors small enough that it can be integrated into our daily lives? Can we track user location? Can we capture signals produced by the human body? Can we manufacture devices cheaply enough that people can afford them? Yes, yes, yes, and increasingly yes… but then what?

How do we supplant the initial awe of achievement with a lasting impact on how we live, enhancing our pursuit of healthier, happier, more productive lives? For these innovations to become integrated with our daily lives a somewhat different challenge must be addressed. How do we make the jump from novelty to necessary?

The answer is frustratingly simple and complex at the same time. Feedback and advice offered needs to be scientifically grounded and personally tailored to you, not a generalized model or a set of abstract recommendations, but designed for you and capable of informing real-world scenarios. This is especially true in the case of health, fitness and performance topics, but as you probably already know, you are pretty complicated.

At the root of this challenge is the fact that your physiology is unique to you, and your physiology also changes over time. Some of these changes over time are due to the natural aging process, others are tied to a variety of physical activity and lifestyle choices, each colored with your genetic composition. As a result, the raw physiological data we are increasingly adept at collecting these days requires substantial interpretation before it can be truly useful.

Over a decade ago, Firstbeat began using neural networks, machine learning and artificial intelligence to make sense of and map the dynamic functioning of the human physiology, using heartbeat data as a window to look at the body. This technology decodes the physiology and opens the door for understanding how the many life, exercise, and environmental demands influence our bodies. This innovative approach was used to develop a digital model of human physiology capable adaptable to the individual and capable of providing highly-personalized feedback and guidance.

In the past few months, a significant number of leading technology brands have signaled the maturation of the wearable sector by offering devices with new, significant capabilities; as an example, they can actually detect, report, and help users manage their personal fitness levels. Instead of just looking up heart rate zones and percentages from a table, these devices are identifying real responses in the body and making sense of them.

This is just one of the many applications of Firstbeat innovations, and a key reminder of how progress is made over time by applying research and scientific breakthroughs to new industry. And when it comes to changing the world, sometimes reaching the summit is just the beginning.
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