November 26, 2014

Nike looks to abandon at least part of wearable effort

nike4

NikeFuel, one of the most widely know sports wearables may be headed to the recycle bin as the company has slashed the development team internally just as a large number of rivals are looking to enter the wearable space.

There are few facts yet in the situation as Nike has not yet released an official announcement about its moves but last Friday C/Net broke the news story saying that Nike had laid off as many as 55 people from the 70 person division that develops the FuelBand. Its Digital Sports arm will still employ approximately 150 people after the cuts.

It looks like not only the FuelBand but also its sportswatch and any other wearables that were on the drawing board are now on the chopping block. Nike confirmed to C/Net that a change in direction and layoffs were in the works but said that it would continue to support and sell the Nike+FuelBand SE for the foreseeable future.

However the move does not mean that Nike is leaving the space, or that the money and effort that went into its recently opened lab in San Francisco are going to waste, instead the company is shifting its focus to software, which as the core mission for its just opened lab.

Of course this opens the door for a whole new range of speculation. Will Nike, which has appeared to favor Apple and its platform, continue down this road and possibly be the supplier of the software to the expected Apple smartwatch? Apple has a long history of doing both its own hardware and software and while it has been happy to accept Nike support on the app side, is that what Nike wants?

Then it could focus more on Google, which is the largest mobile OS provider and has a major push in the wearable space. While Google Glass gets most of the attention that is really just the tip of the iceberg. Google recently announced its Android Wear project designed to expand the wearable space and with it use of the company’s operating system.

This will be an interesting trend to follow and could show the impact that the growing strength of Google is having on a wide range of market segments going forward.

Nike+ Fuel Lab powers up in San Francisco with new partnerships

nike2

As per its previous announcement Nike has gotten its development lab up and running in San Francisco. The lab designed to help enhance and expand the ecosystem of apps and hardware that can partner with its line of NikeFuel-based sports technology.

The announcement coincided with that of three partnerships with Nike. The three are MyFitnessPal, RunKeeper and Strava all of which will be integrating Nike technology into their own products, hoping to expose Nike’s technology to millions of potential additional users.

Strava develops running and cycling GPS-based apps that enable users to take any GPS device out on a run or ride and then view their route on a map after the fact using its app on a PC. RunKeeper is an app for both Apple iOS and Android devices that tracks a users pace, distance and other factors including weight loss. Despite its name it can be used for more than just running as it works well with cycling, or for less active users, walking. MyFitnessPal is a calorie counting app.

Using the ability of NikeFuel to monitor activity, and for that matter inactivity, is core to what Nike is providing to these developers. The Nike+ NikeFuel line has expanded to include arrange of products some broadly focused and others targeting more specific activities. In the lineup are Nike+ FuelBand SE which includes Nike+ Groups and Sessions; Nike+ Running which includes Nike+Coach; Nike+ Training Club that includes more than 100 workouts and then there is Nike+Move.

It will be interesting to see how widespread the adoption of this technology will be. I wonder if Nike can leverage this partner strategy to the level of ubiquity that Facebook has achieved in getting comment sections to accept a Facebook login as a standard mode?

Under Armour joins sports-community race with $150M MapMyFitness buy

Today’s news that sports apparel giant Under Armour has bought sports community concern MapMyFitness for $150 million is just more proof that the big brands will be driving the bus in the race between sports social networks.

MapMyFitness, one of the more popular activity stat-recording and sharing site businesses, better known through its MapMyRun and MapMyRide services, will now have a deep-pocketed parent to help it compete against players like Nike and its FuelBand, Jawbone and Fitbit, and newcomers like Adidas. Then there are software-only or web-only players like Strava.com who are all angling for a part of the new, popular field of athletic and everyday biometrics.

What will be really interesting is if the biometric information from pro athletes becomes more readily available to fans — the Tour de France does an interesting job recently with showing wattage and other exertion information while cyclists are out on the road. Why not have heart rate or calorie-burning levels for marathoners, or basketball players? Recorded stats so you can compare your workouts to LeBron James? It will be interesting to see where the biometrics and social data sharing ends up, now that the big marketing dollars are taking over.

Friday Grab Bag: No Old Style in Chicago

Android USA, a smartwatch maker, has said that its technology will connect its forthcoming smartwatch to other mobile devices that run the Android operating system.

According to the company, its device will wirelessly sync with a smartphone via Bluetooth and give users access to features such as the phone’s music library as well as email and calendar. Pricing and availability of the watch have not yet been announced.

A Phablet too far?
Time magazine has taken a look at the growing trend, and size of phablets, the large smartphone, small-tablet hybrid that is becoming increasingly popular with users, particularly communters who use mass transit and can use the device for both purposes.

The author of the piece ties in sales of the devices with portability, and uses three different sized devices to see how well they do and don’t work in different situations for an interesting read.

Nike+ gets a new app
The Nike+ Move app has been released and for all of you band wearers get ready. Of course the new Fuelband SE Fitness tracker is still pending. The new app is designed to work with iPhone 5S and takes advantage of the new M7 motion coprocessor.

The app has a number of additional features compared to older versions of tracking apps and includes sleep. It has been designed so that users cannot game it and make it appear to be more active than they really are.

Old Style out of style at Wrigley
Bad news for baseball traditionalists in Chicago’s north side, the last can of Old Style beer was served at the last game of the season that just recently concluded. Now fans at Wrigley Field seeking to drink an alternate to some of the big named beers will need to leave their seats and go in search of a cart.

Budweiser has apparently taken over all traveling beer vendor sales and so that will limit the choices of fans. Of course they can always pregame at the Cubby Bear. [editor's note: Real Cub fans will refuse to order Budweiser, aka Cardinals beer; and Murphy's is a better pre-game spot especially on sunny days.]

Baseball launches Free Agent Frenzy
No, this is not just the usual hot stove league where people discuss who they want their team to pick up. Instead MLB.com has a contest that could see you at opening day with free tickets. All you have to do is correctly pick where a number of free agents will end up by the start of next season, with a point for each correct guess. There is a pair of tie breaker questions as well.

Friday Grab Bag: SensoGlove wins award, Nike+ grows

The Nike+ Fuel Lab, the recent expansion of Nike’s effort to get a larger body of developers working on its Nike+ technology has started to invite a select group of tech companies to work with it on the platform.

The 2014 Nike+ Fuel Lab in San Francisco is a 12-week program for which the company said it will select 10 companies to partner with it in developing apps. Among the resources it will provide are access to Nike+ and NikeFuel APIs and SDKs, work space and mentorship a well as $50,000. Send in your application now!

Patent trolls under attack in Congress
Companies that are fighting patent trolls, individuals or corporations that file frivolous patent infringement lawsuits may have a new, potent tool in the defensive arsenal as the U.S. Congress may consider a bill intended to curb such behavior.

Introduced by Bob Goodlatte, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee one aspect of the law would be that winners would receive fees from the loser unless the loser had a ‘substantially justified’ position.

Baseball teams worth more than you thought
Bloomberg News spent nine months working out how valuable each Major League Baseball franchise was by looking at all forms of revenue and came to the determination that the teams have been undervalued by an average of 35%.

The team that came out on tops was the New York Yankees, pegged at $3.2 billion. In the breakdown it shows that the teams’ regional sports network accounts for almost $1 billion of that value, or more than many of the bottom teams totals.

Sensoglove wins Tech award
Sensosolutions digital golf glove, SensoGlove, has won Golf Magazine’s 2013 Techy Award as announced in the publication’s November 2013 issue. The Techy Awards cover 20 different categories that span all aspects of the game of golf.

So it’s not a surprise that the category that the SensoGlove won was Techiest Glove. The glove is filled with sensors that help you adjust your grip by position and power so that your hands are in the correct place and exerting the right amount of pressure.

Web connected video devices to outnumber world population soon
If it seems that everyone next to you at a sporting event is using their camera, tablet or heaven forbid, camera to take still images and video to put onto social media you are not far off. According to a recent study by market research firm HIS, as reported by Home Media Magazine, devices may outnumber humans soon.

The study estimated that by 2017 the total installed base of Internet-connected devices that can play video is expected to reach hit 8.2 billion a 90% increase from the 4.3 billion that is estimated to be connected by this year’s end. The planet’s population in 2017 is estimated at 7.4 billion.

Nike delivers new FuelBand and a developers program

nikeret

With the original introduction of the Nike + FuelBand last year users were presented with a tool that enabled them to track their activities and monitor their exercise of a daily, hourly or even by the second basis.

However active and inactive users learned that the system could be gamed and you could increase your ratings by doing such activities as punching the air. It also fell down on some activities that while strenuous, simply did not register, such as yoga.

Now Nike has come out with a new generation of FuelBands, the Nike + FuelBand SE that not only address the flaws in the first generation but have enhanced features that help you monitor additional activities and even count calories when you are inactive, such as when sleeping.

At a press event in New York that sometimes resembled a calisthenics class the company showed off the latest technology and ran it through its paces, with an assist from some of the more energetic members of the audience.

The company took all of the data that it had accumulated over the past year to fine tune its algorithms that are the heart of the monitoring program and to improve its measurement and tracking capabilities. The band uses Bluetooth 4 technology to connect to the related Nike+ FuelBand app.

The band comes with features that are designed to help motivate you to be active including one called “Win the Hour” that tracks each hour’s total movement that features built-in reminders. Then there is “Fuel Rate” that helps you see how much fuel is being earned. The bands have color coded signals to let you know where you rate. There are others such as “Milestones”, “Nike + Move” app and more.

Nike is also looking to expand the ecosystem of the FuelBand by teaming with developers that will use the NikeFuel APIs in a program called the Nike + Fuel Lab, an enhanced version of what it had been doing with its Nike + Accelerator program.

A downside to the band is there is no apparent Android support as of yet. Android users will have to go to the company’s web site for tracking and information purposes. It does support Apple’s operating system. iOS 7.

The Nike+ FuelBand SE is available for preorder now and will be available beginning Nov. 6 in the current Nike+ FuelBand countries of U.S., Canada, and the UK and for the first time in France, Germany and Japan. The Nike+ FuelBand SE will launch in Black and the Sport Pack colors of Volt, Pink Foil or Total Crimson priced at $149.