Gadgets

With wearables, even hardware companies are data companies

Image Credit: Fitbark

Behind every great fitness device is an even greater dataset.

For devices like Fitbit, Jawbone Up, and Nike FuelBand, the physical hardware is just a window into the more lucrative and far more interesting world of data, which is the real star of the fitness-tracker show.

The same thing goes for FitBark, a fitness tracker for dogs.

“We like to think of our company as a data company, not as a hardware company,” says FitBark’s Davide Rossi, who helped found the company earlier this year.

FitBark, like other dog fitness trackers, promises to help dog owners measure, track, and get recommendations on the activity of their dogs. But to give those recommendations, FitBark first needs to measure the data. Which means dogs need to be wearing it at all times.

fitbarkThis reality has some significant effects on the FitBark hardware. In order for FitBark to be a constant presence on dogs, it not only has to be small and lightweight, but it has to look good as well. This forced Rossi’s team to strip from FitBark features like GPS, which have made the device too heavy for smaller dogs.

“We’re really differentiating on size. We’re trying to create something that dog owners think is cute and designed from the dog’s perspective,” Rossi said.

FitBark, in that sense, isn’t too different from the services of Google and Facebook: While the interfaces of these sites are obviously important, they’re really just secondary to a greater imperative: Getting you to use the services more, and, in turn, share more data.

There’s a larger, fundamental paradox with FitBark, however, that just about every data company has had to deal with at some point: You can’t make recommendations off data that you don’t have.

FitBark recognizes this, of course. “We’re trying to balance between the short-term and long-term,” FitBark “Doggie Evangelist” Arie Abecassis said. “The first step is giving people a product that they would be comfortable putting on their dogs.”


Mobile developer or publisher? VentureBeat is studying mobile app analytics. Fill out our 5-minute survey, and we'll share the data with you.