In early April, Silicon Valley Bank and Terrible Labs, a Boston-based software design and development consultancy, hosted an engaging summit about the future of the quantified self movement, focusing on lifestyle, health and fitness. We brought together more than 100 people in Boston, attracting a range of participants from top corporate venture investors to startups.
Panelists included corporate venture executives at LG, Comcast, Samsung, ESPN, Turner, Partners Healthcare, UnderArmor and New Balance and founders and innovators at RunKeeper, Withings, Orreco, Sociometrics, MC10, Bolt, Crisply, Lose It and more.
What made this event so powerful was having the people and companies at the forefront of the quantified revolution all in one place, which spurred robust discussions around the big opportunities that lie ahead. The race is on to secure a space in this massive market.
We are early, but things are moving fast…and once you overlay the complexities of human behavior inherent in this movement, we are really in an exciting place. If you thought the pace of mobile adoptions was at breakneck speed, the quantified wave is poised to be only faster. Literally. Dr. Brian Moore, CEO of the sports analytics firm Orreco and one of our keynote speakers, predicted the sub-24 minute 10K will be enabled by the technology and companies represented at the meeting.
- Adoption of wearables will happen faster because there are precedent models to follow and a foundation of analytical tools to weave into the next generation of portable devices. In the consumer market, we are already moving on from simple activity tracker hardware, which is now simply embedded in your smartphone. The appetite has shifted towards niche form factor products, such as devices that nag you to sit up straight or swim goggles that provide real-time performance displays.
- Counting calories and steps is barely scratching the surface. The consumer market has demonstrated there is growing willingness and motivation among people to become more involved in monitoring their bodies and making their own health decisions. That in turn has piqued the interest of the healthcare industry, which is observing these consumer trends with great interest. Another topic for another day, but the digitalization of medical care is poised to expand exponentially.
- While those at the summit expressed a real appreciation for the complexities of marrying self-improvement and technology (privacy, liability, bioethics just to start), there also is growing economic and political pressure to systemically reduce the overall cost of healthcare without sacrificing quality. The inevitability of data powering decisions about ourselves gives rise to the potential of both economic and social disruption. Consider that which was reserved for the limitless budgets of the elite athletes or wealthiest patients is migrating to the weekend warrior and average health consumer.
However, with any opportunity there come significant challenges.
- Lots of money will be made and lost as the winners and losers are sorted out. Though the technology offers the promise of enormous socio-economic benefits, the providers of innovation capital are proceeding cautiously until use cases evolve into compelling business cases.
- There are many unresolved issues in such a fragmented ecosystem, ranging from developing business strategies to plan for inevitable hardware cannibalization (akin to the iPhone replacement of the iPod) to forecasting the impact of government regulation and reimbursement issues specifically around medically-targeted devices. Also, the very public debate over what kinds of information consumers are willing to share and with whom is just beginning
- From an investment standpoint, which subsector—hardware, which collects the data, or software, which stores and visualizes the data—will reap the greatest rewards is not clear. The current hardware leaders are becoming software companies, and no one has a dominant position in either space.
Just as digital advertising only really took off when technology improved to automatically serve the right ad to the right person at the right time, so too the quantified revolution only will fully take hold when consumers have access to real-time "recommendation engine." It's easier to motivate behavior modification when consumers immediately can see the cost and health benefit of all that data collection. While the sub 24-minute 10k is a worthy pursuit, one participant in Boston tweeted a much greater potential: "In five years we should be using wearables to improve the way we deal with chronic disease."
There was a healthy dose of brutal honesty at the summit: No one really knows what path this new connected device world will race down, though there is agreement that things will move quickly and business will get done in new ways, i.e. new types of partnerships that we have not experienced before.
An amazing conference, great panels and stimulating content. Well done! Kudos go to Smith Anderson from Silicon Valley Bank’s Boston office and Cort Johnson, co-founder of Terrible Labs.