Wearable Tech World Feature Article
April 14, 2015

Dole's Wearable Banana: A Flop or The Future?

Internet connectivity will soon become a part of everything. However, most Internet of Things (IoT) products and apps are still in their trial phase at this point. Since it is in its infancy, there is currently a lot of testing taking place in the IoT space to see where and how far we can stretch its limits. The creativity of the IoT was put on full display with Dole’s announcement that it will supply smart wearable bananas with LEDs and sensors to Japanese marathon runners at the 2015 Tokyo Marathon. Smart bananas may seem a bit weird, but it’s not like sports and outdoor activities are new to the IoT craze. Items such as smart golf clubs, athletic shirts made by Ralph Lauren worn at the U.S. Open, and basketballs have all been met with great fanfare and excitement. So will smart bananas become consumed by long-distance runners around the world - or will they want to split from this new innovation?

So what exactly is a smart banana and how does it work? Essentially, developers open each banana and fill it with wired parts on the inside of the peel, which is then stitched back together. These bananas are then offered to the runners at a specific point in the race to fuel up and reload on carbs. After eating, the runners will then strap the peel to his/her wrist, which will show each runner’s times, tweets, encouraging messages from friends and family, heart rate, and of course, when is the next time he/she needs to eat another banana.

In order for smart bananas to succeed, people need to be open to the idea of putting a used banana peel on their wrist and neglecting their current smart fitness bands. After all, how else will smart bananas differ than what is already out in the market besides being able to eat it? It’s also up to app developers and chip manufacturers to create unique features for smart and fruit wearables that can’t be utilized by “traditional” fitness bracelets.

In order to continue to improve upon miniaturization of smart products, it’s essential to keep improving sensor technology and longer battery life for the IoT. Sensor technology, like Internet connectivity, is also becoming very innovative nowadays. For all wearable devices, sensors will determine future advancements. Chip and device manufacturers who are working with Dole need to ensure that a banana peel won’t desensitize a sensor because if it does; their product will quickly become irrelevant. What will be the point of putting on a smart banana peel if the tech part of it doesn’t even work? It can’t be that cool of a fashion statement. Overcoming the challenge of touching fruit, instead of a user’s skin, is something that other devices won’t have to be concerned about. They can just focus on features and designs while Dole focuses on this unique, but necessary concern.

For now, Dole’s wearable banana was just limited to February’s Tokyo Marathon. However, it’s likely we will see it again, in addition to several copycats and innovative ideas that seem completely out of-the-box. Inspired by Dole’s wearable banana, these products will disrupt both the still young IoT space, and industries who are normally not involved in the tech world. This product and concept received a significant amount of press and social media conversations, which raised awareness to the IoT and the Tokyo Marathon in general. For those reasons alone, Dole’s wearable banana can be considered a short-term success. It’s where we go from here that will determine its fate and everlasting impact.

Masanari Arai is co-founder and CEO of Kii Corporation.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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