Wearable Tech World Feature Article
October 15, 2013

New Nike+ FuelBand SE Announced Today at NikeFuel Forum Live Event


About 18 months after Nike announced the original Nike FuelBand, at a live event in downtown New York City this morning Nike followed it up by getting the word out on its new Nike+ FuelBand SE, along with new and updated capabilities to its Nike+ ecosystem. For the anxious among you, it'll be here soon, arriving on Nov. 6, 2013 - and you can have it then for $149. It will be immediately available in the U.S., Canada and U.K., and will also become available in France, Germany and Japan for the first time. Above all, it will sport some snazzy new color accents.

Nike's VP of Digital Sport, Stefan Olander, took center stage for the most part, in a very interesting production that included FuelBand encomiums from Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson, track star Ashton Eaton, and Victor Cruz, the New York Giants' salsa dancing wide receiver. Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley also put in an appearance, as did Dr. David Agus of USC - who leant a bit of scientific "physical body movement" research to the entire affair. These folks are all part of what is now a 20 million and growing collection of Nike+ users.

The Nike+ ecosystem, as Nike refers to it, is all based on NikeFuel, a proprietary score that serves as a "universal movement metric" that can work within any sport or with any athlete or user. For the new release, Nike analyzed over a year's worth of NikeFuel data to fine-tune the NikeFuel algorithm to deliver as accurate a measurement of your all-day movements as possible. Nike suggests that NikeFuel is uniquely designed to measure whole-body movement no matter the age, weight or gender of the user. In the aggregate NikeFuel essentially serves to track a user's active life.

We won't go into any detail here of how the FuelBand works to record NikeFuel measurements - we trust you will know…it's essentially no different than what the Jawbone Up, FitBit Force, Misfit Wearables Shine and the Basis Band all do. Primarily, they all track your daily movements and seek to motivate users to keep moving - seemingly and ideally without ever stopping. The underlying health philosophy for all of these fitness-focused wearable tech toys is easily summarized as, "Keep Moving, Stay Healthy."

After his introductory remarks, Olander welcomed to the stage Dr. Agus to talk about the science of moving. Dr. Agus provided context around movement and fitness. The message is quite simple: the more you move, the longer you live. He notes that, "We were designed to move." Agus himself is truly committed - he says that he has a treadmill desk and walks slowly while he works.

He notes as well that we need to think about and create movement in order to overcome a world that has conspired against us in terms of restricting movement. Think of, for example, escalators, or elevators. When you take an elevator, you literally take some bit of health away from you Agus notes.

Agus then goes on to cite such facts as more movement and higher fitness scores lead to higher reading and math scores. We need to create "a movement" to push society "to move." As we noted earlier, by movement, Agus means developing a habit of constant movement throughout the day. Movement is a "dramatic and effective way" to prevent disease and achieve our optimal goals in life.

Following Dr. Agus' exhortations to move, Olander follows up by noting that Nike only sees about 2 percent of Nike+ members moving consistently throughout the day. Next, Olander brings up Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson - the short view of her story is that Johnson achieved a personal high score of 12,000 NikeFuel points when she was on Dancing With The Stars. Oh, and she loves her Fuelband.

Then Victor Cruz and Ashton Eaton took the stage primarily to push the notion that motivation is the key to constant movement, and they underscored of course how the FuelBand and related apps provide that source of constant motivation to move. Nike a live event Fuel Challenge (doing stuff on a bunch of equipment - treadmills, bikes and rowing machines) to demo the new device. That is Cruz in the red sweatshirt in the image shown below.

We'll skip the theatrics of Team Cruz and Team Eaton battling each other's members, but we'll note that Eaton did well and Cruz got the second lowest score of everyone in the challenge, though the Cruz team ultimately beat out Team Eaton. The bottom line message of course is that you've got to move to live a healthy life.

The Fuel Challenge demo's main point was to underscore that the new FuelBand SE can easily track activity across multiple exercise devices, multiple types of movements and different sports-related gestures and body types. We certainly get it - an entire hour dedicated to delivering the message that to be fit one needs to move constantly; and to move constantly one needs to remain constantly motivated; and for that motivation you need the Nike FuelBand SE and your ongoing NikeFuel score as recorded through various Nike+ apps.

Finally we get to the star of the show, the device itself. From a distance the FuelBand SE looks like the original Fuelband but, as the photo below shows, the SE delivers its traditional black color along with some new "designer" color accents - the Sport Pack colors of Volt, Pink Foil or Total Crimson on key parts of the band. It's very exciting stuff!

The Nike+ Fuelband SE

Here are the key FuelBand SE hardware features:

  • The curved batteries remain. Redesigned firmware and a redesigned circuit board provide greater flexibility and an internally-enhanced, simple one-button design drives a super bright LED set;
  • The one simple button drives the LEDs and the red to green bar;
  • Big news: the device is now waterproof, though in truth Nike officially states it is "water resistant" - not quite the same thing as waterproof. We're not sure if a user can, for example, spend a full hour swimming while wearing it. It sounds more suitable to taking a run while it's raining;
  • FuelBand SE gets low power Bluetooth 4.0. No more complicated syncing is involved and the FuelBand SE remains in constant connection with your iPhone;
  • A newly added double tap quickly brings up the time. That is, click twice and you get the time immediately - no more hunting for it;
  • The device will now also track sleep.

We will note here that there was no heart monitor mentioned as a new sensor capability. A lot of users were hoping for such a feature to be implemented, but in fact the FuelBand SE is notably lacking here. A lot of the discussion on "movement" masked this issue. At $199 the Basis Band still strikes us as the more sophisticated device - although Basis doesn't go anywhere near Nike on the collective app end of things, which we'll scope out next.

The Nike+ App Ecosystem

Let's start off with a "missing" feature - there is still no Android support. If you don't have an iOS device, Olander notes that you can use the FuelBand website.

Here are the key Nike+ FuelBand SE ecosystem software features:

  • There are now Groups, which provides the ability to connect people within the NikeFuel community. Users can create groups, share achievements, cheer each other on and work together toward common goals. It's a powerful way to create a micro-community, Olander says;
  • Olander notes that a lot of Nike users love yoga, but the old device did not know how hard a person was actually working. The FuelBand SE adds calibrations (see Fuel Rate below) for different activities, so if a user tags yoga, the right amount of NikeFuel is determined based on the appropriate intensity levels for the activity that is tagged. Knowing how intensely you move is also valuable information to help optimize activities throughout the day;
  • Fuel Rate is the new feature that tracks the rate at which NikeFuel is being earned. The Fuel Rate is measured as NikeFuel earned per minute and is a great way to see the intensity of your movement to get the right information needed to move better toward your goals. The Fuel Rate is viewed as a numerical readout in real time on the Nike+ FuelBand App and uses colors from red to green to simply indicate how you're doing;
  • Nike+ Move is an introductory NikeFuel experience for iPhone 5s users. Nike+ Move measures when, where and how you moved and uses NikeFuel to motivate you. Nike+ Move then lets you compare your movement with that of your friends (or groups) or other Nike+ Move users around you;
  • Nike+ Running App for iPhone  - Nike believes that runners logging miles with the Nike+ Running App for iPhone will find a more fun and personalized experience with the debut of two new features: Photo Sharing and Auto-Pause. Users can share photos from before, during and after their run instantly with their friends through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Path. Auto-Pause uses the app's GPS technology to detect when a runner has stopped and automatically pauses a workout. When the app pauses, the camera icon pops up to enable picture taking, creating a seamless experience between the two new features. When the runner starts up again, Auto-Pause can tell and resumes tracking stats;
  • Sessions provides a means to track specific activities throughout the day. Going out for a run or heading to the gym? Each is a unique session. Users start and mark sessions right on the FuelBand or from the app, allowing a user to track exactly how much NikeFuel they earned in that specific session of activity;
  • Win the Hour - Nike thinks of this literally as your motivation partner. It uses the Nike+ FuelBand SE to track how much movement is accumulated at each hour throughout the day and encourages users to move more often by prompting users to move if they're missing their goal. It also recognizes when goals are hit and lets users know they've 'won the hour.' Move reminders are set in-app and on-band and motivate the user to move more and move often throughout the day;
  • Milestones - Essentially a never-ending list of possible achievements to win. Truly, its overkill, especially if you need them to motivate yourself in our humble opinion. Never the less, now users can earn Achievements not just for their NikeFuel totals, but also for Sessions, Fuel Rate, streaks, and hours won. And on and on and on. Achievements are tracked in a new Games section and also unlock new Achievements at each Milestone reached.

Whew - that is a lot of app activity. Hopefully Fuelband SE users will have equipped themselves with treadmill desks so they can all keep moving as they play with all of these features - especially if you are an Android user in need of website access.

At this point and now over an hour into the event and preceding the litany of new features, Nike brought out Dennis Crowley, Foursquare's CEO for an interview. We'll skip the interview but we'll point out the point of bringing Crowley out wasn't so much because he is a FuelBand enthusiast (though he is) but to talk about gathering great loads of data - which plays a huge role in the benefits NikeFuel and the FuelBand SE bring to the game.

Olander wrapped up by mentioning its work with partners - something that is very important. Building off the success of the original Nike+ Accelerator program and partners that were first highlighted back in March 2013, Nike today announced Nike+ Fuel Lab. Based in San Francisco this time around, the 2014 Nike+ Fuel Lab is designed for tech companies with an existing product offering and a desire to help people live more active lives by connecting with NikeFuel. As was the case with the Nike+ Accelerator program, ten partner companies will be selected and given tools, resources and support to bring an integrated product to market by the end of the 12-week program. The program will partner with companies who will use NikeFuel APIs.

And then the event was over.

We absolutely look forward to getting the Nike+ FuelBand SE into our Wearable Tech Labs for a hands-off review. It is quite interesting how much effort Nike has placed on the entire issue of "movement" and in truth a lot of what fitness-focused wearable tech is all about is capturing movement. We're not really sure if measuring movement is enough however.

But if motivation is the name of the game behind ensuring endless pure movement that in turn assures one of health, fitness and well-being, the Nike+ ecosystem and FuelBand SE will certainly help certain types of folks to get there.




Edited by Rachel Ramsey




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