Xconomy Mobile Madness Event: How the quest to define mobile may impact the future of wearable devices

(c) Timothy AungstRecently, the life science publication Xconomy hosted an evening of thought-provoking discussion at the Microsoft Campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The theme of the panel was “Mobile Madness – The next disruptors.” Many local start-ups from the Boston location were there, with interests ranging from how cars will be impacted by the growth of mobile, changing role of communication and how mobile impacts physical fitness.

Several high profile executives, entrepreneurs, and CEOs shared their thoughts on mobile devices, with much discourse on what exactly defines ‘Mobile’ today, and how it will change in the future.

The keynote panel consisted of multiple companies local to the Boston area, including Doron Reuveni (uTest), Mike Phillips (Sage Devices), Jennifer Lum (Adelphic Mobile), and Mark Kasdorf (Intrepid Pursuits). The moderator was David Beisel (NextView Ventures), who posed multiple questions to the panel on the current role of mobile. Questions ranged from what exactly is ‘Mobile,’ how Boston has helped the mobile space, and recent Facebook acquisition of WhatsApp. But one of the most compelling insights came when the panelists shared how they use mobile devices themselves. Many owned multiple mobile devices, with one panelist claiming to have owned 30-40 devices in the past year.

But what about the future of mobile devices? Some of the panelists highlighted that our interaction with mobile will drastically change. No longer will touch be the defining characteristic of interaction with our devices, rather a whole new range of inputs will develop such as eye movement and hand gestures.

Even more surprising were the integration of mobile devices and the “Internet of Things.” Many of the panelists highlighted their thoughts that mobile devices would turn into a streamlined function of our everyday lives where the interface that you use your device at the desk will be similar to in your car, and will serve as a way to engage in multiple activities.

One other person who really defined their thoughts on mobile was the CEO of RunKeeper, Jason Jacobs, who was interviewed by Curt Woodward of Xconomy on his thoughts on how mobile is disrupting health. RunKeeper, now a partner of Withings, is a GPS-tracking device that allows all fitness enthusiasts to track their progress.

Jacobs pointed out that wearable devices are all the rage. There have been a plethora of devices released, from companies such as Fitbit, Withings, Misfit, and Nike. On top of these, larger companies are getting involved with their own devices, such as Samsung and Apple. The question becomes then, what do start-ups who have been in the field of mobile make of this huge upsurge?

Surprisingly, Jacobs is not scared by any of these advancements. He recounted that when he launched his company, many discouraged him, saying mobile apps in fitness were a niche. However, RunKeeper now has more than 3 million registered users and competes with Nike, Apple, and Google.  For Jason, as an entrepreneur, the competitive nature of the wearable tech market poses many challenges, but he also feels validated that his business model is being validated and echoed by other companies.

RunKeeper may have a run for its money with Apple’s upcoming Healthbook and Samsung’s new digital watches and health devices. According to Jacobs, these new wearable devices are on a road to nowhere. He stated that while consumer adoption of wearable tech is hit-and-miss, smartphones are now ubiquitous because they have become more streamlined and easier to carry.

As such, an app-based business model like RunKeeper’s might be more sustainable, especially among users who carry their phones daily and forget about their wearables. Jacobs pointed out the limitations to wearable devices, and also echoed thoughts of earlier panelists, in that the future of mobile will be more predictive for the end-user.

Overall, the speakers at the Xconomy “Mobile Madness” event brought up many interesting points with ramifications on future mobile development. Many seem convinced that mobile will become even further entrenched in our everyday lives. The way we interact with mobile devices will also become less cumbersome and more intuitive. Lastly, odds are that mobile will also become more closely tied to the human body as wearable tech develops. Currently, this trend is limited by fragmentation amongst operating systems, battery life, and the way data will be tracked and utilized effectively for meaningful purposes.

Timothy Aungst

Timothy Aungst

    Timothy Dy Aungst is an Assistant Professor at MCPHS. His interest involve geriatric care, pain/palliative care, internal medicine, clinical research, and the integration of technology into pharmacy practice. Timothy is also a Editor and Writer for iMedicalapps.com where he reviews medical apps and writes on mobile health (mHealth). He is a firm believer that mobile technology will play a significant role in changing the healthcare field in the next few years. Pharmacy can become a major player in this field and he hopes to help increase this involvement.

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