Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Wearable Devices At Mobile Monday In San Francisco

I attended the Mobile Monday networking series for the first time last night. This one was "Challenges in Innovating Mobile Devices and Wearables" in San Francisco.  I'm not a tech developer but it behooves me to keep up on developments in this sector. My site and blogs need to be visible on mobile platforms if I'm ever going to capture the attention of tribal elders in emerging markets who play Angry Birds on their smartphones.

You never know who you're going to meet at these shindigs over pizza and booze. I got into a conversation with one dude sporting a Google Glass who claimed to be an IT developer.  I didn't question his insights until he started spouting off about Bilderbergers meeting at Bohemian Grove.  Whoa, back off, dude.  Those folks are my kind of crowd and I don't want them bad-mouthed by someone who has no understanding of the social hierarchy in advanced civilizations.  I searched the Internet afterwards for this guy's purported track record in tech.  It turns out he's nothing of the kind.  Success in entrepreneurship means separating the fakers from the makers.

I wanted to see real wearable hardware but the only examples present were some Google Glasses.  Anyone can sign up to be a Google Glass Explorer (i.e. a test marketer) but applications are currently closed.  I never thought wearing glasses would be so cool.  Mario Tapia kicked off the formal program with an introduction to Mobile Monday and its Momentum Mobile Accelerator.  They're always looking for hot startups, so get your application in ASAP if you're building a hot product.

Ubuntu was the featured presentation.  Their Linux-based real-time operating system (RTOS) is designed around user-selected content rather than a hierarchical menu.  It seems intuitive but I'm an old-fashioned menu kind of guy and old habits are hard to break.  I still don't have a smartphone so I can't do my own testing.  The good news is that Ubuntu is totally free, just like the financial research I publish.  I thought better of my plan to announce on Reddit that "today I learned (TIL)" about the XDA Developers community, because that would be too simplistic to say.

The expert panel didn't show off any gadgets but their shared experiences fired my imagination.  They mentioned that telecom operators often use their control of switching networks to dictate smartphone features.  Mobile developers should thus test market their beta devices with telecom carriers.  I can see the value of third-party data validating a new device that way if it attracts VC investment.  I recently advised an entrepreneur protege to get third-party data to show his environmental thingy invention worked.  He then broke off my relationship as his mentor because I told him something he didn't want to hear.  Oh, he also expected me to do all of his work for him at zero pay.  Forget that nonsense.

Okay, back to the panel on wearables and mobile tech.  You can't just make a wearable device in a vacuum, don'cha know.  They must be consonant with other devices in WiFi, IP, and other protocols.  They must solve problems, especially those faced by early adopters.  They generate contextual data, so they must "talk" in digits to other things.  Medical wearables will need FDA approval.  Some panelists actually thought fashion and social norms would be the biggest obstacles to user adoption of wearable mobile devices.  I totally agree.  Going on a date with someone wearing Google Glass would be awkward if you think they're recording your first kiss.  Wearables may be confined to a social context that inhibits their use with anyone other than the primary user.  People who feel perfectly comfortable sharing devices on social media may balk at sharing personal space with someone who looks like a cyborg.

I think a major conceit in the developer community is their belief that they can steer the device ecosystem of apps, network, and services in ways that influence OEMs to build devices.  That all depends on how successful the community is in getting developers to adopt standards based on the most portable programming languages.  HTML is a pretty successful language but I've noticed that the comments blocks on many blogs and media sites don't allow HTML tags.  Even a widely-adopted language like HTML is disallowed for some user-generated content.

The panel was seriously stumped on ways to monetize wearable tech.  They stumbled over nebulous concepts like P2P and energy until someone mentioned health care.  I can totally see preventive health monitors becoming mandatory for health insurance policyholders who enroll in plans under the Affordable Care Act's state-run exchanges.  Here's a brief sketch of how the flow of information would work:

Wearable health monitor
> Data on nutrition intake and fitness output
> Big Data collection through IRS to HHS
> Big Data analysis by health insurers
> HIPAA transfer to providers

The wearable can resemble a wristwatch, a device every human being has long been conditioned as an acceptable thing to wear next to one's skin.  That eliminates any contextual or social barrier.  The overall effect of wearables is much more significant than enabling more precise delivery of health care services.  The mandated wearing of these monitors for vulnerable populations like the elderly and new parents will eventually become a norm for the entire population.  Fear will drive adoption.  Vulnerable patients will fear adverse health outcomes that wearables could prevent.  The rest of the population will fear being shut out of health insurance altogether.  Wearables using an RTOS can be enabled with GPS, making instant geolocation of every citizen a real possibility.  The total surveillance society will be complete as soon as personal location data passes the HIPAA barrier to law enforcement and the intelligence community.  Your data could even go to environmental regulators who can decide whether you're using too many resources.

We don't even need to stop at wearable tech.  I've got the next logical step:  drinkable tech!  Yes, I'm serious.  Drink a milkshake blended with thousands of nanobots that will embed permanently in your body tissues, particularly your brain and nervous system.  Your body's natural electrical field will give them power.  Enough of them in your brain could enhance your intellect and make you telepathic with another similarly enhanced human.  Of course, connected to Big Data, they could also fill your head with the uncontrollable desire to perform as instructed.  The total surveillance society will become the total control society.

There's no looking back.  Put the protocols for wearable tech in the public domain now.  Arduino standards allow us to design our own device control systems.  Lets use Arduino to design wearables that allow for individual defense against unwanted external controls of cognition.