When will the Quantified Self cross the chasm?

Bring cutting-edge technologies and products to larger markets, making them mainstream – that’s what Moore’s Crossing the Chasm is all about. Where is this specific point in a technology’s adoption lifecycle that transforms a nerd toy into a quite natural product of everyday’s life?

The biggest, and possibly only, problem of the Quantified Self is its name: whereas “the self” is a widely known – though misunderstood – term, “quantified” is a so-called conversion: a verb turned into an adjective. Those grammatic conversions require additional thought processes before people either express them or understand them. Second, “quantified” is a foreign word which we all would not use every day.

It must be assumed that, when Kevin Kelly and Gary Wolf started the Quantified Self movement in 2007, agreeing upon this term did not come easy, although it exactly defines itself: an [international] collaboration of users and makers of self-tracking tools. In this definition, the difference between Quantified Self and self-tracking becomes evident: whereas self-tracking describes the individual (and detached) behavior of collecting data about oneself, the Quantified Self additionally contains the aspect of collaboration of individuals and/or groups of self-trackers. So – it seems to be difficult or even impossible to ease the way for the Quantified Self by renaming it self-tracking.

But, let’s put the wording problem aside for a moment, and let’s take a look at the hurdles technologies have to overcome on their way to mass market. Alex Iskold from RRW describes the dynamics:

Crossing the Chasm

To become a mass market product, it has to attract Innovators, which typically are defined as 2.5% of the market, followed by the Early Adopters, which make up for 13.5%. After used by around 16% of the market, a chasm yawns. To become mainstream, the product has to motivate the next group, the 34% Early Majority, to be used by up to 50% of the market.

Compared with 1991, when Geoffrey A. Moore introduced the term “Crossing the Chasm”, the speed of new market entrants has increased dramatically. Many technologies – especially those invented in Silicon Valley – are aimed at innovators and early adopters. And 12 months after a product has gained traction, it’s online at amazon.com or the Apple Store, and that means a worldwide availability. Today, startups can sell their products in the tens of thousands in a foreign market before they even have their first customer support agent hired – a typical early adopter’s problem.

In the U.S., retailers like Safeway, mobile operators and others have shelves offering fitness gear communicating with apps – the most visible quantified self products these days. According to Pew Internet, 66% of North Americans track themselves with dedicated devices and 46% state that they have changed their behavior based on the collected data. What Pew does not disclose is whether those people actually know that their behavior is called Quantified Self. It’s a matter of fact: more and more people who quantify themselves haven’t heard of that specific term before.  They just do it. The reason: there are no “Quantified Self” signs at the shelves. People buy wristbands or smart watches, but not “quantified self” tools.

Coming back to wording: if “the Quantified Self” will be used as a more academic term for people buying wristbands, smart watches, smart clothes, etc., and sharing their data, then we’ll have the interesting effect of a coming mass market with a name only insiders know about.

cisco wearable tech forecast

Did I say mass market? Indeed: ask the one market research company or another, the market for so-called wearable tech; i.e. the technology used by the Quantified Self – will grow to $30-40 billion in 2018. I call that a mass market. The assumption behind these numbers – as always – is that these products cross the chasm, that they overcome the hurdle from motivating early adopters only to wow the early majority, too.

In our opinion, that’s possible. Why? The Quantified Self / Wearable Tech will become a huge market because it empowers the individual: QS redirects competences from experts – physicists, scientists, etc. – to the individual. Sue Clark is able to collect and analyze enough high quality data to be informed about her health situation at all times. She can either predict serious health problems like strokes, or she can help to prevent them by changing her behavior to the better. QS gives autonomy back to the individual, and this is the main force behind a dynamic growth of this market.

The growth rates will depend on the availability, the usability and the personalization of advice – aka social relevance:

  1. Everybody must be able to use the device. The device itself should be free or cost less than $100.
  2. It must be absolutely easy to use the device – nobody must be overly creative or be urged to engage heavily.
  3. The user must get individual and personalized recommendations to change her behavior, if necessary. No standardized programs, but individual advice.

If these criteria are met, a QS device, be it a wearable app, or hardware, will be sold in its tens or hundreds of thousands within short notice. And problems like obesity, which alone costs the United States more than $150 billion in lost productivity a year, could be addressed in a new way.

And then, the Quantified Self will have crossed the chasm – perhaps without even being noticed.

Open Foresight – our session at re:publica 2014

“The future is already there, it is just not evenly distributed” as William Gibson said.

At re:publica 2014 conference in Berlin we will demonstrate methods and tools to make good predictions and foresighting from sources found on the Net.

“With Big Data comes the end of the pundit” – foresight, predicting the future from the present, has always been the realm of obscure trend researchers, strategy planners, intelligence services or the RAND Corporation.

To get to useful insights about the changes in society, politics, culture, or technology, we do no longer have to rely on the esoteric, propriatory knowledge of individual researchers or institutes. We can harvest the tremendous treasure that lies at hands in the Internet.

In our session we will demostrate at real cases how to derive patterns and trends from sources like Twitter, Google Books or Google Correlate without heavy programming skills; we will search blogs with self-made crawlers, we will demonstrate how to find and visualize Twitter networks, and how to get information on people’s behavior using meta-data (just like the NSA does according to Snowden …)

Come to our session:

re:publica conference

Wednesday, May 7th at 12:30pm
stage B

Link to the re:publica-site:
re:publica Open Foresight

Audiostream from the session (in German):

Our Session at the Quantified Self Europe Conference

[Opening the QS Europe Conference 2013: Gery Wolf (left) and Ernesto Ramirez (right)]

The Quantified Self Europe Conference will take place May 10th to May 11th in Amsterdam. This year we are excited to not only visit but also take an active part in the conference. We will host a session:

QS and philosophy

We would like to discuss some philosophical (or rather “ideological”) aspects of QS:
– QS, postprivacy, and communalization of private life.

How does the practice of tracking, sharing, and using data for personal meaning challenge our ideas about human connection, ideas traditionally framed as oppositions between between “individuals” and “society.”

My thoughts on this topic, I have put down here:
“Organizing a System of 10 Billion People”

Hope to see many of you there!

Datarella People – Klaus Bscheid, Wearable Tech Entrepreneur

Here’s the transcript of this Datarella (DR) interview with Klaus Bscheid:

Klaus, can you tell us a little bit about ambiotex

Sure! ambiotex has developed a textile with integrated sensors. With these sensors we can track a genuine one-lead ECG. Based on that ECG we can extrapolate not only the pulse rate but a heart rate variability (HRV). At the same time we quantify the user’s breathing rate as well as her breathing volume. Based on the analysis of the combination of these data we can draw many very interesting conclusions. In particular, we think that HRV analysis is useful for the regeneration of the human body, for insights into coping with stress, etc.

Our textile is an undershirt, since it should be the very first layer being directly on your skin. You can wear this shirt during your sports activities as well as in your everyday life. So what do we do with all this body data? If it’s a sportsman, we can tell him his regeneration level, i.e. we can tell him whether it makes sense to exercise or not. This is important since many athletes don’t really know when to exercise and they might harm themselves. Additionally, we can tell the athlete on which level he should train: we know his individual aerobic threshold in realtime and can support him in planning and optimizing his workout.

If you think of the overworked manager, we can tell him when it’s too much for this day.

That sounds as if I don’t have to visit the doctor because my health is constantly tracked by my Ambiotech shirt. Being a technology company, how can you provide this kind of medical support – do you cooperate with experts in this field?

In the first step, our product will not be positioned as a health(care) product, since we first have to gain experiences and to acquire the appropriate certificates. We think that we are able to track and analyze many health-related data. We certainly would not submit that we were able to detect an imminent heart attack, but that’s definitely on our agenda. We want to enable the user to react on corresponding signals.

For the time being, our goal ist to provide our users with feedback on data he isn’t aware of. After all, that’s the goal of the Quantified Self: to get permanent feedback on my body’s functions. I don’t have to react, but I can react. This said, it’s important to provide the user with the appropriate analyses – since he won’t be able to interprete the 5 heart rate variability variables by himself. Here we are working with algorithms enabling meaningful analyses of these data.

Klaus, you’re pretty deep into that topic self-tracking and yet, you don’t wear a wristband or a smart watch. Do you track yourself at all?

Sure – I have tested some of these wristbands. And for some time, I liked it pretty much. But, after a while, I got bored by these wristbands. Also, I tested some smart watches. But I haven’t found the right one for me – still waiting for that one…  But, I’m pretty sure that there’s a bright future for smart watches which cover a broad spectrum of quantifying and analyzing. However, we see that you have to collect certain parameters from your body directly and that’s our focus.

Thank you very much, Klaus!

Thank you!

[Please note: ambiotex is in test mode and will be launched summer 2014]