Adidas jumps into wearable computing, announces new $399 smartwatch at Mobilize

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10-16 am Session 1_1003.MP3

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Session name: Proving a personal service to athletes via a wearable device
Chris Albrecht
Katie Fehrenbacher
Paul Gaudio
Olof Schybergson

Chris Albrecht 00:02
Washington [fights?]. I’ve heard of such a thing. Anyway, never mind. I want to let you know that Mississippi will be doing a book signing during the morning break so you can pick-up the book and have him sign it right here. It’ll be a good fun. But I want to bring out our next panel. We’re going to be talking about providing a personal service to athletes via a wearable device that’s going to be moderated by my colleague Katie Fehrenbacher. She’s going to be talking with Paul Gaudio – the VP of Adidas Interactive at Adidas, and Olof Schybergson – the CEO of Fjord. Please welcome the next panel to the stage.
Katie Fehrenbacher 00:36
Thank you, Chris. As Chris said, I’m Katie Fehrenbacher. I’m a Senior Writer for GigaOM, and I’m very excited to be here to talk to Paul Gaudio who has Adidas Interactive and Olof Schybergson – CEO of Fjord which got purchased by Accenture recently. And Paul, can you just give us a little bit of an overview about how Adidas got into wearable devices that connected athlete but the specifically launching it into wearable device based?
Paul Gaudio 01:04
Yeah. I think it’s important as a big brand like Adidas, we obviously we’re going to come at anything through that lens of our brand, and Adidas has long history of performance and really helping athletes get better. That’s how our company was founded by Adi Dassler and it was really his [mantra?] and it’s sort of the DNA we build in everything we do. So how we can help athletes get better beyond making great shoes and shirts is we sort of came to this idea of delivering service, helping athletes get the best out of their sporting or training experiences, so that’s really sort of our point of view in the direction that we’ve taken in this space.
Katie Fehrenbacher 01:42
And then, you’re telling me backstage – 2005, you guys really kind of really jumped into the whole sector but you had been trying to connect the athlete with various devices but the technology hadn’t been there yet.
Paul Gaudio 01:53
Yeah. I think, going back as far as 1980, I think we put the first electronic device into a shoe to help track your speed and distance; 2005, we then started to play around with the idea of sort of this little network of sensors on your body that can help track and measure what you do and give you credit for that and ideally lead you into that path to get better. And we always felt that technology is a way to serve an athlete and whether it’s footwear or apparel technology that helps your sort of physiological performance or in this case, we started to look at electronics as an enabler to help us deliver that service to enrich an athlete’s life.
Katie Fehrenbacher 02:31
Okay. And then, a little treat for the audience here, we’re actually– Paul and Olof were showing off a device for the first time if you can see it somewhere on the screen. There it is. And it’s the Adidas Smart Watch. I’ll let you guys talk a little bit about that and what it is and what will you do with.
Paul Gaudio 02:53
Okay. Really in keeping with this idea of how we can provide a service to athletes to help them get better, we came upon a model a few years back of really providing a real time personal coaching and training plan, so taking the technology out of the lab and bringing it out on the road with the runner, or out in the pitch with the soccer player. This idea of providing this personal service resonated really well with athletes. The problem that we were facing was, it was difficult to provide that service given the state of technology. So having multiple sensors on the body, having them connected to one another, speaking to one another, it was more stuff and I think anyone knows that when you’re out playing sports, you want less stuff – you want only the essential things, you need to perform. So this product really is the combination of that journey we’ve gone on to take these sort of more complex solutions and reduce that down to, I would say an expected solution where runners have been telling us for years, “I just want everything I need on my wrist and I don’t want to deal with all of these extraneous paraphernalias.” So that’s really again, that’s the problem statement, how do yoy provide the personal real-time coaching service, how you condense all of those sensors and all of those electronics into one place that is suitable for runners.
Katie Fehrenbacher 04:09
And give me the details real quick because I know that the news hounds and I just want to know. Once it’s available, how much does it costs and basic stats?
Olof Schybergson 04:17
What to do?
Katie Fehrenbacher 04:18
What to do? [laughter]
Paul Gaudio 04:19
Well, it launches November 1st and it is essentially, when you think about a runner, what does he want to do? Well he wants to know how far he went, how fast he went. So we have GPS that can help track your speed and distance on boars, but really what’s I think unique to us and unique to the experience is that we coach athletes, we give them personalized training plans that’s based on their fitness levels and based on their goals, and we do that through providing heart rate coaching, heart rate training. So there’s a on-board wrist-based heart rate sensor that allows me to coach a runner in-an-out of their heart rate zones to achieve their goals through time. The other thing you hear runners want almost all the time is, “Well, I run with my music and that’s about it.” So, we have on-board capability to carry our music with you, there’s bluetooth so I can listen my music on the headphones and as well, I think importantly then, you can get your coaching through either visual and physical prompts on the device or you can then get your audio coaching through those bluetooth headphones.
Katie Fehrenbacher 05:21
How much does it going to cost?
Paul Gaudio 05:22
Katie Fehrenbacher 05:24
Okay. And you have to tell me a little about the user experience that Fjord helped them with.
Olof Schybergson 05:30
Yes. So, when Adidas gets into service and when we talk about something as sophisticated as this then the design of it is very important, so we’ve been lucky enough to work with Paul and his team for some time and it has been a big effort for us to design the best possible experience along side Adidas. I think, fundamentally, when you think about this category over-all, the wearable category about this specific device as well, I think we’re talking about something that’s almost impossible to do which is to provide that feels seamless and ease that fits into your life yet it’s incredibly sophisticated, it is multi-modal. We talked about vibration and so on, we talked about audio input, we talked about visual interaction and so on, it is personalized around you based on what goals you set yourself, how you’re performing right now, and so on. So the marriage of all that complexity and sophistication with simplicity and ease of use in a very small form factor – really, really challenging and a bog design challenge. And that, in a way, for the whole category, a lot of it is about that. You’re talking about quite sophisticated algorithms, software, and so on, that need to be wrapped in something that is desirable and fits into people’s lifestyles. This device is of course, for quite a specific target user and use, but the general principles are quite similar across the different categories and it’s a big challenge but it’s fascinating.
Katie Fehrenbacher 07:10
Yeah. What are some of the things you’ve learned in designing or being at the forefront of designing wearable interfaces?
Olof Schybergson 07:17
So, some of the things that we’ve been thinking hard about and that we’ve learned is, there are very few standard set. So when we design for a more traditional, digital for example, there’s a lot of standards and expectations set. When we design them for current digital – tablet and mobile phones and so on – again, a lot of the standards and expectations about how things work and what they contain, and so on, have been set. But in design for wearables, there’s very few rules that you have to follow. You kind of have to invent your own rules and test that with target consumers and see whether it’s successful or not. So, that again, is an amazing opportunity. You can define how people will use electronics in the future. It’s absolutely incredible. At the same time, it’s a massive challenge because you really need to be quite thoughtful in your design approach because things have not settled down to a standard, a definitive way of doing things. With the Smartphone, iPhone brought their own definitive way of using a Smartphone but category-wise–
Katie Fehrenbacher 08:21
But it took a decade, right?
Olof Schybergson 08:23
It took a decade, yeah. So it’s going to take– Wearables is going to take some time for the things to settle down and shake out, then it’s just amazing to be a part of that. I think, getting to an answer to your question, I think the key learning is – don’t things for granted and don’t under-estimate how challenging it will be to come up with something that fit-in to people’s lives – some gradually allow them to change their habits and improve their lives.
Katie Fehrenbacher 08:48
When you look out in the distance, do you see the world of device for the athlete, the main one being the smart watch or where do you see the device going because there’s so many options in terms of an athlete wearing that device.
Olof Schybergson 09:01
Well, with Paul, we talked that quite a bit and I think Paul, in a way, gave a clue to the answer already by saying people want less stuff, so we probably see a future where about people don’t have lots and lots of different objects that they carry with them, but them carry one. In fact, they’re already saying, “I don’t want my phone with me.” So for the people who do more serious sports, they don’t want to carry that device. It’s not specialized enough and it’s quite bulky and so on. That’s where this device fits in perfectly. It’s probably one place, it’s our guest. And then it depends a little bit on the type of sport. For most sports, actually, and for most wearable type of category areas, my bet is on the wrist. So it could go on with neck, it could go on the head, it could go out to places, but the wrist, we already have this habit of using watches that has been there for ages and it’s quite easy to access, it’s glance-able, it’s not socially that intrusive to look at my watch maybe a little bit but not terribly. And it doesn’t introduce a lot of sort of social awkwardness that people are debating around the Google glasses and so on.
Katie Fehrenbacher 10:15
Right. By the way, any thoughts of paying on Google glass where athletes get a version of Google glass?
Olof Schybergson 10:21
My view would be, in general, that Google glass is a wonderful public lab that Google is providing to the world. It’s fantastic to see how that’s shaking out. I don’t think it’s a mass market product, at least not yet. I think it could be fantastically used for specialized purpose areas – surgeon, military, serious athletes – but not a mass market thing because it’s a bit too awkward, it’s not stylished enough and so on.
Paul Gaudio 10:51
I would say, if our perspective on this really has been– yeah, starting with the idea that people aren’t necessarily looking for more and so I think, integrating these experiences into your daily life – the things you already and have – is I think the important answer here, yes, the wrist is one place we already carry things and are comfortable with. We are looking at integrating and have been integrating sensor technology into apparel and footwear as well, simply because it moves with your body, you already wear these things, you need these things, so our point of view is bring that function into the product which you already have and already need as oppose to trying to create additional peripherals or products, and I think glass – I would agree with that answer – it’s a very unique and specialized product that I think we’ll find a lot of applications. I sit something that someone would wear all day everyday? At this point, probably not but time’s change.
Katie Fehrenbacher 11:48
Yeah. Seems like 2013 is the year of the Smart Watch or at least the rumored Smart Watch. How will Adidas compete and stand out in that market?
Paul Gaudio 12:03
This is a question that we get asked all the time. I don’t think really was to come out and compete in this Smart Watch pace, in that sense, what we wanted to do is come up with the absolute best way to deliver our service, and as we discussed already that we felt that this sort of sweet of technologies and this location on the body is the right way to do that, and if that sort of then puts us into that space somewhat, so be it. Again, our intention really was to serve runners, to serve a specific target group. I think the Smart Watch conversation at the moment really seems to be extremely broad and it seems to be focused around sort of this being a second screen to your mobile phone or second control device for some other aspects of technology in your life, and that’s not the angle we’re taking at all. We did not incorporate anything in here that we didn’t think a runner needed or would’ve appreciate in their lives. And there was an opportunity to include a lot more obviously, the technology exists now. But we left certain things on purpose, and I think those are the most difficult questions or most important questions, I think, to answer with a product like this is not what you can do but what you should leave out, and I think that’s may be how we’re different. We’re not trying to make a Smart Watch but probably the smartest running watch, I would say.
Katie Fehrenbacher 13:22
Okay. And I would like to welcome people in the audience to ask Paul and Olof any questions about the Smart Watch or about right there. And there’s the microphone right there.
Audience Member 1 13:40
Are you guys going to be opening any API’s for the watch?
Paul Gaudio 13:44
At this point, we have nothing available or nothing to offer. Our focus really is delivering this service. I do think that it’s something we’ll look at as we go into 2014 and we begin to get distributed, we’re having conversations but nothing to communicate at this point, no.
Katie Fehrenbacher 14:04
Anyone else? Paul, I was interested to, when you’re talking about what are the lessons learned and what you decide doesn’t work for the watch. What were some things that Adidas went through and said, “Oh no. Actually, we tested that. No, that’s not good.”?
Paul Gaudio 14:19
Well, the first one, I think, the common feedback which was mentioned is that runners, at a certain level they get to a point where they don’t want to be bothered with carrying a phone, and so you think yourself, “Well we put all this capability. We built a mycoach app for Smartphones and we’ve had huge penetration with that 9 million downloads, very successful but it gets to a point where you get to a runner that won’t run with their phone or doesn’t want to, and the insight there is as much as not wanting to hassle with carrying it and having the solutions to carry it. It’s also the idea of not being connected. Really leaving out the communications capability – the phone part of it was important, was a primary decision. It was one of the first we made because, I think, when we first looked at this, of course, you say “Well, I can have an emergency call capability, right? It’d be great if I could pick-up my, if I’m on a run at lunch and someone calls from the office.” Those things were immediately taken away because, as you talk to runners, that’s intrusive or that’s extra additional, and one of the reasons people run is really to distress and to get away and to leave that world behind. I think that’s one example – leaving the phone capability out of this product was deliberate and intentional.
Katie Fehrenbacher 15:38
What did you find when designing wearables for clients what is the main thing that you want to leave out.
Olof Schybergson 15:44
Well, I think that the challenge is that – to your early question as well is a general challenge in the category is that it’s sort of a category still looking for the main functionality or the added value. So people are experimenting with lots of stuffs. Should it be– Is it about the [?]? Is it about just like a handier interface for your Smartphone? Is it about offers? Is it about lifestyle like I’m sleeping well and I might moving enough type of stuff, what is it? So people have different takes on it. I think most challenging for us has been clients come to us without a clear point of view and they just want to do a wearable device because that’s kind of the flavor of this year. Everyone is going to do a smart watch, everyone is going to do this and that. And I think that’s what we’ve love with working with Adidas and this product because the had the point of view and they had,a clear function, they had a clear target market and a clear function that they wanted to provide. And then, it allows yoy to strip away the extraneous things and focus on what really, really matters for that target group. Actually getting to who is this for and what is the core benefit, is actually the most important and hardest question in a lot of the cases.
Katie Fehrenbacher 17:06
Okay. Alright. We’re going to wrap up in just a second unless there’s any final burning audience questions. And Paul is actually wearing the watch if you want to try to come find him after the talk and get a chance to peek at it. And one self promotional plug of if you want to learn more about designing wearables, GigaOM’s having a experience design conference next month called the road map, and you should come because it’s going to be awesome. But thank you so much Paul and Olof.
Paul Gaudio 17:35
Thank you.
Katie Fehrenbacher 17:36
That’s great.
Olof Schybergson 17:36
Thank you.