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商业 - 科技

健康腕带追踪时代或将衰落 可穿戴式设备仍有戏

Erin Griffith 2014年05月16日

耐克裁减FuelBand团队的消息引发了健康追踪腕带市场的地震。事实上,这种功能有限、兼容性差的产品或许真的没前途了,但可穿戴式设备未来的日子还很长。

    不久前的一个周五晚上爆出了一个重大新闻:耐克公司(Nike)炒掉了FuelBand团队的大部分成员,将停止生产可穿戴设备。对买过、用过、报道过或投资过所谓“可穿戴设备”这款炙手可热产品的人来说,这个消息都不啻于晴天霹雳。

    这样一来,一度被捧为下一代计算大平台的可穿戴“智能”设备,如健康追踪腕带、卡扣式心脏监护仪、谷歌眼镜、智能手表,甚至还有智能假发(没错,就是智能假发)突然之间就魅力大减。

    2013年,耐克公司售出了约3300万美元的FuelBand腕带,为此它招了200名员工,甚至围绕这个设备开展了一个加速计划。如果它都对可穿戴设备没兴趣了,这是不是意味着这种设备气数将尽了?耐克又是怎么知道我们没兴趣了呢?

    这个消息曝出后,一些可穿戴设备顶级制造商就开始公开造势,大肆渲染自己业务的美好未来。本周在纽约举行的TechCrunch Disrupt大会上,Jawbone公司首席执行官侯赛因•拉赫曼称,公司将扩展它追踪的数据量,增加服务种类。Jawbone的UP腕带现在已占健康追踪市场19%的份额。同时,以68%的市场份额雄踞市场老大的Fitbit公司则对科技资讯网(CNET)做了一个简短声明,称自己这么做早已有七年之久了。凭借Flex、One和Zip这些产品,“尽管最近冒出了几条耸人听闻的头条新闻,”Fitbit照样自信满满。

    耐克也站出来澄清最初的报道,称不是要放弃所有的健康追踪业务,只是放弃硬件罢了。耐克将不再生产FuelBand,但还会继续为智能手机、智能手表以及各种智能设备打造软件和健康追踪应用。

    不过,现有的健康追踪和可穿戴设备显然需要改进。现在很多健康追踪器都是又大又难看、戴起来也不舒服的腕带。而更大的问题在于它们的实际功能。正如我的同事JP•曼格林丹本周初所写的那样,他想变成数字达人的愿望落了空,因为这些设备上的可用选项要求他使用完全不同、彼此无法兼容的系统:

    有一天,我开始停止使用任何设备。本来我花了好几百美元买硬件买软件,再把它们生拉硬凑到一起,以为这样就能全面了解我每天的健康信息了。但实现这个目标的过程感觉真是太费事了——睡觉需要一种腕带,白天需要另外一种,吃饭需要一种应用,跑步又得用别的。为什么就不能有种软硬件一体的设备来执行所有这些任务呢?

    除了这一点,对绝大多数人来说,光知道自己每天走了多少步其实没什么吸引力。咨询公司Endeavor Partners的一份报告称,这也是为什么有三分之一的消费者没再用这类设备。而业内人士称,实际停用的健康追踪设备数量很可能比这多得多。

    可穿戴设备和健康追踪器要想成为我们生活中不可或缺的一部分,它们就必须成为“必不可少的”、而不是“有了也不错”的时髦玩意。要实现这个目标,唯一的办法是具备更好的功能。我曾和Misfit公司的首席执行官桑尼•乌探讨过这种产品今后的发展。他的公司直到最近还叫Misfit Wearables,然后才去掉wearables这个词。

    The news broke on a recent Friday night: Nike Fires Majority of FuelBand Team, Will Stop Making Wearable Hardware. It was a shock to just about anyone who had bought, worked on, wrote about, or invested in the white-hot category called "wearables."

    Hailed as the next big platform in computing, wearable "smart" devices like fitness tracking bracelets, clip-on heart monitors, Google Glass, smartwatches, and even smart wigs (yes, smart wigs) suddenly looked a lot less interesting.

    If Nike (NKE), which had sold an estimated $33 million worth of FuelBand bracelets in 2013, employing 200 people and even running an accelerator program around the device, was no longer interested, did this spell disaster for the category? What does Nike know that the rest of us didn't?

    Since the news, the top wearable makers have openly touted the future of their business. This week at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in New York, Hosain Rahman, CEO of Jawbone, said his company will expand the amount of data it tracks and services around it. Jawbone's UP band accounts for 19% of the fitness tracking device market. Meanwhile Fitbit, which dominates the category with 68% market share, made a short statement to CNET that it's been doing this for seven years, guys. Fitbit, with products like the Flex, One, and Zip, remains confident, "despite some of the recent sensationalized headlines."

    Even Nike has clarified the initial report, saying it is not giving up on all of fitness tracking, only the hardware part. Nike will stop producing FuelBands itself, but it will continue to build software and fitness tracking apps for phones, smartwatches, and whatever other form factor smart devices take.

    Nonetheless, it's clear the fitness tracking and wearables need to evolve beyond their initial offerings. Many of the fitness trackers in their current form are large, unattractive, uncomfortable bracelets. But an even bigger issue is what these devices do. As my colleague JP Mangalindan wrote earlier this week, his quest to become a quant junkie failed when the available options required him to use disparate systems that didn't talk to each other:

    One day, I just stopped using everything. I had invested hundreds of dollars into hardware and software and cobbled them together so I could to get a holistic picture of my day. But the process felt too complicated for its own good -- a wristband for sleeping, another for the daytime. An app for eating, and then another running. Why couldn't there be one piece of hardware and software to rule them all?

    Beyond that, merely knowing how many steps you've taken each day isn't all that compelling to a large, mainstream audience. It's why one-third of consumers have abandoned their devices, according to a report by Endeavor Partners. Industry insiders say the number of inactive fitness tracking devices is likely much higher than that.

    For wearables and fitness trackers to become a permanent part of our lives, the devices must become "need to have," not "nice to have." The only way to do that is to offer better functionality. I spoke with Sonny Vu, CEO of Misfit, about the future of the category. His company was called Misfit Wearables until recently, when it dropped the word "wearables" from its name.

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