How Wearable Companies Can Become Platforms

Pebble, the first smart watch company which raised over 20M in a crowd-funding campaign, announced last week it was focusing its efforts towards fitness and healthcare last week. Wearables have moved beyond extensions of a smartphone with reminders and text message alerts, to sensor-based medical tools ( I’m not saying devices yet). Sensor data accuracy has improved the last couple years, which has opened the world up to a lot more than counting steps. What Fitbit and Jawbone realized is the tracking of movement can be a key indicator of a person’s well-being and overall health. . Currently, there are 45 Clinical trials using Fitbit's looking at several different types of conditions. But now every major electric firm has a “wearable division” and there are over 10 firms that I know in Shenzen (and yes I have spoken to them) are ready and able to make whatever wearable you want…. the market looks saturated.

The question for these wearable companies is How can they become platforms?

I believe the answer is they must create communities and be “socialized”. These healthcare based devices must connect their users in order to share data and share their emotional and physical status with each other (patients) and their families. Healthcare and disease is a community experience…a loved one suffering from chronic conditions impacts others around them mainly their family. Healthcare is Social as Phil Bauman said a few years ago. Wearable companies will need to offer more to their users than just vibrating alerts. The device must include an online “experience” around the specific condition. The patient’s health status is monitored by the device but the data needs to be shared with the patient’s caregivers. But the patient’s needs their own feedback loop in order to engage the user in a more meaningful way. Each patient needs to also connect with other users “like them” so they can share their healthcare experience with each other and provide the emotional support need to manage and cope with the disease. Healthcare is Social and it is also Emotional! Wearable companies must provide an emotional-based experience for their users…especially in healthcare.

In his book Platform Revolution, Sangeet Choudary explained that “Platforms work when customers become “content creators” and companies simply facilitate the communication between two buyers and seller customers. “

Wearables need to take platform thinking to mind as they build out their capabilities and allow their customers to communicate and share content.

Ultimately how successful would the iPhone be without the app store?