2013
03.25

We may have finally reached that point where the shine has come off the rose with regards to personal tracking devices. All that great tracking data in the cloud needs to be telling us something, right?

It was inevitable. At some point in time what started out as a novel concept around the idea of tracking your health, your golf swing, your swim patterns, your blood pressure, the amount of steps you take, and even your eating habits, turned into a situation of too much tracking, not enough transforming.

After all, isn’t that the promise of these tracking devices; that in time the data you receive from these devices was supposed to make us all change our habits, modify our behaviors, make better decisions?

The numbers seem to suggest that people are indeed tracking, albeit not exclusively with the use of technology. Take the numbers from Pew Internet & American Life, which revealed earlier this year 49% of people are tracking their personal health progress “in their heads” while another 34% do so on paper. When it comes to using devices, the number drops to 21%. Overall, the report says of those activities 46% say tracking has changed their overall approach to maintaining health.

Such research goes to show that perhaps tracking devices are slowly making a difference when it comes to monitoring personal health. But I would argue the average consumer has become so inundated with the idea of tracking every aspect of their everyday life via a device, or even a smartphone or tablet, that they fail to find real value in the ability to track what really matters.

Case in point, Zeo. You know Zeo—the device designed to monitor sleep quality. Beyond just the device component of Zeo was the personalized program designed to help you understand, analyze, and ultimately improve your sleep. Combining a lightweight headband that uses sensor technology to measure electrical activity produced by the brain during sleep, and a bedside display, wireless communication was established to help tell you how long you slept, the number of times you awoke during the course of the night, and even the amount of time spent in each phase of sleep.

We did a product review on Zeo when it first came to market, and I remember thinking right off the bat that the idea of tracking sleep quality could prove to be very valuable. It has been well documented just how important a good night’s sleep can be to our overall health, and given the rate at which people spend millions on sleep studies, better mattresses, and gimmicky pillows, all with the intent of attaining a good night’s sleep, I would think a device that promises to give you quantifiable data on our rest patterns would be a hit.

When word came down that Zeo could be no more all I could do was shake my head. Here was a tracker that, in my opinion, could produce data that would have true impact on our everyday lives. Was it an idea ahead of its time? Perhaps. Or perhaps the company didn’t do a good enough job helping people realize what to do with all that wonderful data its device was providing them.

Conversely, with all due respect, I look at the market enthusiasm around something like Nike FuelBand and scratch my head. When a device promises to give me something called ‘Fuel points’ I guess I don’t really understand what that is supposed to mean for me. A friend of mine recently voiced similar concern with the use of her FuelBand, even questioning just how long she would stick it out with the device because she was unsure what it was telling her.

Right there! Not sure what it was telling her. How are we supposed to make good use of the data when we aren’t too sure what that data truly is to begin with? And therein lies the rub. If numbers like that of ABI Research’s prediction of more than 485 million wearable devices shipped by 2018 come to pass, that means we will be flooded with devices capable of tracking.

But I would gather to guess that we don’t approach such a number if we don’t start coming up with more efficient ways to help consumers make sense of what they are tracking soon. Or else we might see more victims of too many tracking devices—some of which, like Zeo, should have had a fighting chance to stick around.

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