At the end of March I attended a TPMA meeting “Designing for the Internet of Things”, where Dominira Saul, Chief Experience Architect at Akendi spoke about where the industry is going and some of the opportunities and challenges of building products for the Internet of Things. It was a great session and while I could probably write about 5 posts based on ideas that were put forward, for today I’m going to focus on something that came up for me during the final Q&A.
During his discussion, Dominira talked about the opportunities (and challenges) of creating things that use data from our connected devices to model the ever changing context we are in so that they can help us or change our behavior. As an example, when getting into our car at night a half hour later than normal, could a device suggest doing a hands free call to our spouse to tell them we will be late to dinner.
My mind started to think of where the industry is today in terms of the information collected and presented to us – specifically around fitness wearables. Like the early days of business analytics, are we still just presenting data to people rather than giving them meaningful metrics that will change behavior. Is “3000 steps walked today” actually just a vanity metric? Will it really make me change my behavior and lose weight? It is all still too bleeding-edge.
As a consumer I understand all of this. I’ve been struggling with the scales and there are a number of reasons beyond my control that are making that difficult. I’m eating very little and tracking my intake and nutrition on MyFitnessPal.com. I’m not exercising half as much as is normal for me because of injuries and deteriorating joints. I’ve been a WeightWatchers member in the past, but I really like the change I made to MyFitnessPal because it allows me to focus more on my nutritional goals around a daily target of grams of protein, fat and carbs. Though these are set as targets in terms of percentages of food eaten, I’ve done the math to translate the grams into percentages of my calorie goal for the day.
Maybe more information than what you need! But you can see I understand the whole thing. Maybe better than most.
Both MyFitnessPal and WeightWatchers , traditionally online food trackers, are now integrating with wearable devices that track activity – with Fitbit as an example. So you can more easily track your activity in the diet app and the food intake gets included in the dashboard of the wearable.
My biggest issue with the food trackers is that they tend to treat activity as calories earned. Since my goal is to lose weight and get back into better shape – doing exercise as a license to eat freely seems counterproductive. So today, I haven’t been tracking my activity all that regularly inside the app. And as a result, with budget considerations as they are for me, I’m not rushing out to by an activity tracking wearable.
This does point out something that I usually say about business metrics. That you need to understand the business goal you have set to determine the metrics you want to track.
If one of my goals is to exercise more in order to help with my weight loss efforts, isn’t a metric that shows the correlated trend of how much I exercise against my success on the scales a much better metric. And as I suggest above, isn’t tracking that I walked 3000 steps on a particular day just a vanity metric? Wouldn’t knowing that the week I lost a pound, I also had walked a minimum of 2500 steps each day be a stronger encouragement to get moving?
Now let’s make a leap back to business. For me this real world tangible example of looking at the goals, tracking data, metrics and insights from exercise data brings a down to earth what business analytics are all about. And yet, even though business metrics area much more available and everyone now creates dashboard reports, we still make some of the same mistakes in looking too closely at vanity metrics and not enough at analytics that give us real insight into the impact of our activities on our business goals.
As an example, consider a business goal to attract more customers. Twitter followers are just as much a vanity metric as steps walked. A more meaningful metric might be the ratio of sign-ups to our mailing list against the number of website referrals from our posts on Twitter. And a survey result showing the percentage of new subscribers who said they found us on Twitter even better.
So look at what you are putting into your dashboards. Is the information really meaningful to you? Will it give you the right insights and encouragement to create positive trends?
And as a final note…
All of this did get me thinking about how to encourage myself to move more again, even with my bad knees. As a bit of research for this post, I signed up to Fitbit to take a look at what they do offer today that you can track on their dashboard. As well I linked it to MyFitnessPal. Something you can do even before you buy a Fitbit device.
So, maybe I have metaphorically taken a step closer to getting a wearable.