The Nike FuelBand was a work in progress, but a popular one. And it seemed that Nike was planning on building out the line this fall. But no longer: The FuelBand line is abruptly ending and Nike is firing the entire hardware group. So what happened… and what can we learn from this?
1. Wearable Tech May Not Ready For Prime Time.
Google and Samsung are probably not enthused to hear that a major argument that consumers want wearable tech is going away. Whenever you’ve brought up the issue of whether consumers want this stuff, the success of the FuelBand has been a major bullet point. But it is, and they have to ask themselves if this is a coincidence or a reflection of how the larger public will treat wearable tech.
2. Software Is More Important Than Hardware.
Not summarily fired? The software team. Nike appears to believe that the future of fitness lies in tracking apps, not wearable sensors. That makes sense in some respects; a lot of what the FuelBand did could also be tracked by smartphone apps, which have a much higher rate of adoption.
3. Vitality Sensors On Your Wrist Might Be Over.
It’s not clear what this means for the FuelBand’s competitors, but this rather dramatic exit does raise a few questions about the market and its future. If Nike feels that there’s no future in selling wearable technology for fitness… are they right, or simply a little too shortsighted.
4. The Smartphone Is Becoming More And More Important.
Nike was able to dump the sensors because, well, smartphones could easily fill in the gap. Even budget smartphones are coming with better sensors that collect more information more easily. Nike appears to have decided writing apps for those is a lot cheaper and more likely to get attention.
5. It’s The Data That’s The Most Important.
The fact that Nike is focusing on collecting the data through apps tells us that the company is really looking more for the data the FuelBand collected than the sales that the product made. That tells us Nike is more interested in the data than the money. Which raises the next question…
6. What’s Nike Actually Doing With All This Data?
One thing that hasn’t really come out of this is what, precisely, Nike is doing with all the data it’s collecting. It’s not just sitting on a spreadsheet somewhere, we know that much; Nike wouldn’t be collecting it if it didn’t further the company’s goals somehow. But what are those goals?
7. Nike Isn’t Entirely Out Of The Wearable Tech Game.
Perhaps the most interesting news is that the FuelBand API is still going ahead, which will allow technology and apps to use Nike’s work for their own ends, as long as they give Nike what they want. That’s a surprisingly forward-thinking idea for a major company, even as one as cutting-edge as Nike. And it does mean that we might seen a FuelBand successor someday. Just not, apparently, from the company that pioneered the field.
Dan Seitz is an obsessive nerd living in New England. He lives in the Boston area with a fiancee, a dog, a cat, and far too many objects with processors.