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24 Jan, 2013 – leave a comment

hacking with a purpose

You still have a few days to apply to be a Nike+ Accelerator Partner, which comes with $20k, bragging rights, and access to the Nike+ and Fuelband APIs and SDKs. It’s a good idea and something that Nike needs to be doing to catch-up to competitor FitBit which is dominating the emerging space through community co-creation.

But I wonder what the mark of success will be for Nike. User adoption of new services, a fuzzy set of engagement metrics, PR, polish, etc. If I was in charge, I’d be myopically interested in apps and services which demonstrate actual positive health outcomes. To me, this has always been the most important unanswered question of this category and it looks like I’m not alone:

“It’s like the wild, wild West,” said Dr. Atul Butte of the Stanford School of Medicine, who just started using a Fitbit and an Aria Scale. “For a drug company, there’s such a burden to show how [their product] works better. A gadget maker is … not required to show that data and that’s kind of unfair.”

“Probably, like most gadgets, these devices help those folks on the borderline, [those] ready to make behavioral changes and looking for something to tip them into healthy behaviors,” he added.

We’ve entered an era where data is easier to generate and easier to display, but I haven’t seen much maturity in our understanding of how data impacts behavior under specific contexts and with specific mechanics. Critically, we also don’t have a grasp on what unintended consequences these devices might be having (e.g. just by wearing one you might feel healthier and thus make poorer choices). I personally worry that these devices are seen solely as marketing products (aka the new watch) and not as a balance of marketing message and behavioral modifier.

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