The Microsoft Band 2 Ties For a Prominent Place In Professor Rudi Mentary’s Fitness Tracker Wearables Industry Award Evaluation

Of Wearables and 3D Printed Patisserie Delights. The year 2046 was a full three decades after the rapid rise of the fitness tracking wearables market in the first half of the new millennium’s second decade. After an ill-timed and ill-advised trip to Venice, Italy in the hot, humid, stanky, and global climate change- and planetary wobble- induced and record setting mid-August temperatures and unbearable humidity of the northern Adriatic Sea summer of that contemplative year, Professor Rudi Mentary sat down for a classic Venetian espresso with an imported French croissant from his favorite Parisian 3D printing import bakery, Le 3D Robot Patisserie Dumont de la Rue Chanel.

This lil’ French-Italian gem of a pleasantly, semi-automated pattiserie ‘n café was supremely well located near the Museo del Vetro, the famous glass making museum of Venice so well visited by travelers via the Collana Waterbus line stopover at the Murano sestieri portion of Venice. It served the bustling market of hundreds of traditional glass blowers and, surprisingly, dozens and dozens of smart IT wearables fashionista designers & engineers from Poland, the Ukraine, and Czechoslovakia, and, . . . wait for it, . . . the western hinterlands of Kazakhstan bordering the Caspian Sea, who, one and all, had relocated their bustling 2020’s era IT wearables fashion prototyping and design shoppes decades before to the world famous Glass Island of Venice — that improbably-still-there, semi-artificial land mass — in anticipation of the great inland European climate change floods of that decade.

For nearly 3 decades, ‘Il Dumont’ as it was affectionately called by the local Venetian and tourist café connoisseurs, had made enough money from these world class, state-of-the-art technology driven wearables designers cum IT engineers to acquire the most cutting-edge 3D patisserie printing machines available from the former French cuisine-IT manufacturing and software programming stronghold of Avignon, in the Provence-Alpes-Cotê d’Azur, a truly gorgeous region of Mediterranean earth so sadly devastated by the tipping point climate change floods of the early 2020’s.

It also helped that Il Dumont’s Condé Nast, Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy, and Iron Chef award-winning, 3D patisserie printing engineer and top chef, a transplanted Argentinian-Italian monk and meditation guru named, Salvadori  Santucci, had invented a drink the truly savant wearables fashionistas all over northern Italy raved about for two decades prior to his ‘tremendo consensi’ Italian Webcast retirement party departure to the sensual mountain resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo, so quaintly nestled amongst the clearest and freshest, granite filtered rushing river waters in all of the Italian Alps. For Salvadori Santucci had followed up on his meritorious, 4am lucid dream moment of creativity by adding three ever so brief splashes of green Absinthe liquor and a dash of Peppermint to a classic deep, rich, and thick Italian espresso. Needless to say, this ‘magnifico bevanda’ became the rage of Italy and several other flood resilient, nearby European Alps countries for the ensuring two decades.

Enough of Santucci, though. We must return to the story of Professor Rudi Mentary’s momentous decisions on historically classifying the absolute best-in-class fitness tracking wearables of the early 2015 through 2020 so-called ‘basic period’ of wearables innovation.

Professor Mentary’s Wearables Contemplation. Professor Mentary sat pensively at Il Dumont contemplating his recent appointment by the Emeritus Reticuli Club of Wisconsin to pass muster on the historical wearables artifacts that would be placed on display in the futuristically architected and newly minted, Mag 10 earthquake and Cat 5 hurricane resistant geodesic dome styled Museum of the History of Humanoid Information Technology – MH2IT, for short – located in the center plaza of the 23rd Century Academy of American Education in Baraboo, Wisconsin.

Mentary was an expert in all forms of IT, since the age of 14 in fact, when he won the Quantum IT Innovation Award from the University of Basel’s physics and electrical engineering department. After several decades in industry, Mentary simply wanted to teach, to pass on his painfully acquired expertise and savvy to the next generations of IT professionals and global business and consumer user communities. Each sip of Santucci Espresso brought Mentary closer to his goal of satisfying all the criteria for the wearables that would be showcased front and center in the prominent entrance display to the Basic Period History of Wearables Exhibit at the newly opened museum in mid-southern Wisconsin.

Mentary ruminated over the lot and ordered another delightful Santucci Espresso.

Professor Mentary Evaluates the Global Market Leader – FitBit — and the FitBit Charge HR. Rudi, as he preferred to be called by his physics and IT engineering friends, considered the merits of the market’s first mover, FitBit, which by the pivotal market changing year of 2016 had already garnered just a teensy tiny fitbit less than one-quarter of the entire global market share in the fitness tracking wearables market.

He recalled from his quantum-powered datastream analysis that FitBit had shipped almost 5 million units of all their different wearables products in just the 1st quarter of 2016. During the 2015 through 2016 early mid-point of that ‘basic period’ of wearables, FitBit was growing at a rather astounding 25.4% compound annual growth rate — astounding considering the imposing competition they faced in truly massive global IT competitors.

Indeed, Mentary recalled his ‘basic period’ industry growth datapoints for comparison and perspective.

One of the leading market research firms of that period was IDC, the International Data Corporation. IDC had tracked 19.7 million wearables shipments in just 2016Q1, an annual run rate of some 80 million wearable devices per year across the entire global economy.

IDC’s analysts at the time, both now well past retirement and golfing abysmally in Palm Springs, California, Ramon Llamas, IDC’s wearables team leader and Jitesh Ubrani, IDC’s research manager for wearables, both saw the wearables market as hotter than hot, with a ’15-’16 year over year Q1 growth rate of some 67%, yet a market fragmented into a) the holistic solutions dominated by the smart watches of the day and b) the basic wearables like the fitness bands that offered more focused use cases and applications for a much larger spectrum of users who could not or did not want to afford the more expensive smart watches. [Source: http://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=prUS41284516]

The historically pristine sample FitBit product on the Il Dumont table for Rudi Mentary’s prominent museum display award consideration was the FitBit Charge HR, FitBit’s heart rate monitoring wearable. This late 2015/early 2016 period piece was the follow-on to the company’s earlier works called the Surge and the Flex, and the pre-HR model, the Charge.

Mentary’s quantum powered mental capabilities quickly assessed the FitBit’s strengths. They came in first on savvy market segmentation of the entire wearables community of users, with products geared to each user segment: i) the fitness focused, ii) the productivity focused and smartphone & tablet/Web centric user community, and iii) the casual smart fashion focused user community of teens and adult males and females.

The FitBit Charge HR came in first amongst equals on price, at a cost effective best of 129.95 USD on their www.fitbit.com online store. Next came the direct and — Mentary carefully thought — quite simply logical outgrowth of FitBit’s focus on simplicity, the long lasting, 5 day running battery life of the Charge HR, FitBit’s market moving heart rate monitoring fitness tracking device that became a highly popular fitness and health craze wearable in 2016.

With the FitBit Charge HR, a user could use the heart rate monitor to track calorie burn, runs, walks, hikes, floors climbed, workout intensity, tailored workout profiles, and optimize personal health by way of the Charge HR’s optical heart rate sensor. The Charge HR offered the user of the day the ability to view social media notifications and calendar alerts, pay for coffee, answer phone calls, tweet , track quality and quantity of sleep patterns and problems, set up fitness and personal health challenges such as MobileRun, Strava, and MyFitnessPlan with friends, and do some of the things a smart watch could do, only with a mandatory wireless tethering connection to a smartphone. When synced to a user’s smartphone, the FitBit app gave the ability to monitor many types of health and sports activities.

FitBit lagged behind in display technologies implemented on their devices, small and technologically unimpressive pixel resolution techs as they were, but they made up for it with elegant fashion simplicity in their designs, which allowed them to “off-load” the true intelligence of their tracking products to their apps that lived on the FitBit Charge HR users’ smartphones, tablets, and Websites in the health and fitness fields.

Overall, Professor Mentary determined that FitBit presented the premier marketing benefits campaign to the marketplace (it wasn’t even close to the trained eye of true marketing savvy pros) and that it had the strongest global wearables brand in that 2016 fulcrum year of the basic period. As such, Mentary put the FitBit Charge HR on the list for prominent display in the museum’s 2015 – 2020 wearables exhibit award case, but just not yet at the top of his list.

In short, the FitBit offered the most viable aspects of all the major wearables activities and global brand leadership that the three or four major global wearables user segments needed and wanted during that basic period. Mentary absolved himself of any need to make a premature award calculation of a museum display exhibit winner and moved forward in his analysis to the other wearable competitors.

Professor Mentary Assesses the Global Wearables Competitors. As a world class IT analyst, Mentary knew of the strengths that Xiaomi brought to bear.

In fact, by 2016, the Beijing headquartered Xiaomi had sold nearly 71 million smartphones the previous year, and by the end of 2016Q1, it was shipping an annual run rate of nearly 15 million unit of wearables and was selling one in every five wearables units across the entire planet. Xiaomi had something going for it, in a big market adoption-wise, Mentary ruminated.

However, it became quite clear to Mentary that most of this market impetus for Xiaomi was due to the massive nature of the wearables market in China, as opposed to any clear technological leadership that Xiaomi held by the 2016 turning point in the global wearables market of that era. Needless to say, though, Mentary was duly impressed with Xiaomi’s nearly 42% compound annual growth rate by 2016 and their very clear and pending threat to Apple. Even from the vantage point of the massive cranes that stopped the nearly finished construction of Apple’s Spaceship campus in Cupertino, California by the summer of 2016, most Silicon Valley based IT analysts of the day could see the beads of sweat pouring off the brows of Apple’s executive team viewing the Xiaomi competitive threat out 2 to 5 years thence.

The professor then considered the relative laggards of the 2016 era wearables pack. Apple’s smart watch sported a 7.5% market share in wearables, shipping an annual run rate of 6 million units in 2016.

Garmin gained a 4.6% market share and was growing at a 27.8% CAGR clip by 2016, selling at an annual run rate of just shy of 4 million unit shipments. Mentary noted that Garmin had gained this strength on the basis of its appeal to a wide range of serious athletes, especially golfers, runners, and fitness tracking enthusiasts, who were all enthralled with Garmin’s Vivoactive HR and Vivofit 3 apps, as well as a complementary insight display device called the Varia Vision for cyclists. Garmin was gaining on the market like an aggressive Tour de France cyclist, but Mentary noted that they were still laggards in the overall scheme of the global wearables market of the 2015 – 2020 era.

Samsung, was growing at a at 4.5% CAGR, with 3.6% market share, and an annual shipment of just less than 3 million wearables units per year by the summer of 2016. What had set the Samsung Gear S2 smartwatch apart from its competitors in the wearables space of the day was its ability to be untethered from a nearby smartphone or tablet by way of embedded wireless connectivity to both receive and make phone calls, texts, Emails and notifications. Samsung’s Achilles heal though, was its relatively lackluster apps ecosystem for the still maturing Gear S2, thus limiting its total market appeal, especially when considered against the market shaking movements of the Android Wear and Apple watchOS platforms.

Professor Mentary Turns His Attention to the Microsoft Band 2 Wearable, Circa 2016. The Professor viewed all the product specs, features, and benefis of Microsoft’s entry, the Band 2, the follow-on to the earlier Band wearable with the unimpressively flat OLED display that also fell somewhat flat in the market as a result, user-centric design and ergonomics being what they almost always are, tricky.

Microsoft’s Band 2 utilized a Corning Gorilla Glass 3 covered OLED touchscreen that curved around the human wrist, an ergonomic design which today, in the year 2046, seems like child’s play logic to us all, but in those early wearables days, that notion had not yet been firmed up in the vaulted mindsets of the UI and user experience designers of that IT era.

The Gorilla Glass wrapped around a full curved AMOLED display sized at 32 x 12.8mm, for a total display space of 409.6 square mm. For comparison’s sake, an official USPS Forever postage stamp measures 22mm wide by 24.9mm high for a total area of 547.8 square mm. This means that your Band 2 AMOLED display offers information in an area approximately 75% of the size of a postage stamp. Be that as it may, it still packs a nice punch, especially given the augmentation by the smartphone, tablet, and Web dashboard apps where the user can focus most of his/her analytical fitness and health conscious attention.

Even a casual reader of this historical piece could predict that Rudi Mentary would be enthralled with Microsoft’s embedding of 11 discrete sensor technologies into its Band 2 fitness tracking wrist device. For the Band 2 sported an optical heart rate sensor and a 3-axis accelerometer/gyrometer used to calculate things like number of steps a runner or walker takes. A gyrometer and GPS sensor were included in those days to make real-time and post-activity calculations and graphs of things such as running or biking routes, distances traveled, and maps of your route that would appear in your MS Run Tile or MS Bike Tile app on your smartphone, tablet, or Web health and fitness dashboard.

The Band 2 could give you app information in both text content display and a variety of attractive graphics for things such as bike ride distance, ride duration, calories burned (with estimates for fats and carbs burned as well), peak, average, and ending heart rate, recovery time, overall cardio benefit, and even high value add things such as sleep analysis.

And Mentary was visibly impressed during yet a third Santucci Espresso about Microsoft’s integrating ambient light sensor, skin temperature sensor, UV sensor, capacitive sensor, galvanic skin response sensor, microphone, barometer, and oxygen consumption sensing hardware and software technologies into both the Band 2 device and its ecosystem of apps.
Perhaps it is not surprising then, that to the afternoon crowed at the Il Dumont café in Murano, Venice, the Professor appeared most intrigued with the Band 2’s elegant use of one of the premier materials for the wearables market for the next several decades, thermal plastic elastomer silicone vulcanite, which Mentary considered for its own display case award at the museum of wearables exhibit.
The Band 2 also offered a 48 hour duration Lithium-Polymer battery, Bluetooth 4.0 (Low Energy) connectivity, and compatability with Windows Phone, Android, and iPhone system OS platforms.

Rudi really liked the Cortana personal assistant capabilities of the Band 2, even though they were still maturing at that early time period of the wearables technology evolution. Did Cortana have some glitches, yes, for sure. However, Mentary appreciated that the IT industry did not move forward on the wheels of progress by skipping a few bumps in the road. Cortana was one of the more sophisticated and clever implementations of pseudo AI personal assistants during those early AI-assisted wearables years. Mentary placed this into his overall calculation of the Band 2 versus the FitBit Charge HR and the other wearables competitors of that basic period.

Mentary considered the effort the Band 2 product designers expended to craft a clever Band 2 charging station for just 20 USD that could transfer a full charge to the wearable in 1.5 hours and doubled as a table clock when one attached the Band 2 device and display via the magnetized adhesion mechanism. Even with some minor glitches in the on-off attachment mechanism, this clever use of magnetic attachment was an innovation that stuck in the minds of most users for the next several decades – “easy peasy” as it turned out to be for the duration of such wrist wearables.

Mentary did not have a historical record to prove it, but he suspected that Microsoft used DowCorning’s TPSiV version of this wearable wonder material to make the band for the Band 2. Technically, it was a unique hybrid of a thermoplastic urethane (TPU) and a cross-linked silicone rubber that combined the toughness, abrasion resistance, and over-molding capabilities of TPUs with the softness and resistance to ultraviolet (UV) light and chemicals provided by silicone technologies.

Mentary appreciated, from the vantage point of several decades of hindsight, the user experience model of realizing that fit and feel for the actual wrist band was just as important to most users as the entire IT experience of the hardware and software and apps. Indeed, the Professor was ready to explain to the museum’s board of directors that one of the primary reasons for Microsoft’s inclusion as a first place tie entrant with FitBit was its elegant design of the Band 2 with what Dow Corning had tested with USP Chapter <88> for biological reactivity levels in humans, as well as the ISO 10993-10:2010 standards for the assessment of medical devices and their constituent materials in regard to their potential to produce irritation and skin sensitization. Indeed, Rudi Mentary figured that the Microsoft product development manager for the Band 2 also should receive mention for the elegant simplicity of their integration of this type of biologically sensitive user experience technology into the wearables in those early days. To prove his point, Mentary noted to the museum’s board that two decades hence, in the decade prior to 2046, the vast majority of the global wearables market was still using this biologically inert material that was soft to the wrist touch, yet fashionable in almost any color imaginable, and elegant in style – just what the entire wearables industry required in those early days.

For a hotly competitive ERP of just 185 USD, Professor Rudi Mentary figured the Microsoft Band 2 deserved equal billing with the FitBit wearables, a very cost efficient and productive tool of consumer technology during the historic 2015 – 2020 basic wearables era.

A 2015 – 2020 Wearables Era Historical Award Tie – FitBit and Microsoft Band 2. Mentary’s conclusion was almost a duplicate of that historical era determination by the International Business Times (www.ibtimes.com), which website had evaluated the wearables market 3 decades prior to Mentary’s 20-20 hindsight review of that basic period of wearables of 2015 – 2020.

IBTimes had placed Apple and Microsoft as a tossup for best displays, Apple as the best in mobile payments for wearables, Microsoft as the best-in-class fitness tracking wearable, and Apple and Microsoft as tied for the lead in personal assistant tech. FitBit won on user centric product design for various user segments, company and wearables branding, applications ecosystem savvy, and price.

Overall, Professor Rudi Mentary’s assessment was to place the FitBit Charge HR and the Microsoft Band 2 as the co-leaders at the forefront of the Basic Period History of Wearables Exhibit at the Museum of the History of Humanoid Information Technology, the MH2IT in Wisconsin.

The next time you’re in Baraboo, Wisconsin, please do take a gander under the Gorilla Glass 17 protected
historic wearables exhibit display case for both the Microsoft Band 2 and the FitBit Charge HR, both tied for Professor Rudi Mentary’s 2015 through 2020 basic period awards for wearable technologies – now on display at the Museum of the History of Humanoid Information Technology located in the center plaza of the 23rd Century Academy of American Education in Baraboo, Wisconsin.


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