Blog skyhook logo An Interview with FiLIP on the Direction of Wearable Tech

May 28, 2015 8:30:00 AM

An Interview with FiLIP on the Direction of Wearable Tech

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The smartwatch market is expected to grow from 15 million devices to 373 million devices by 2020, NextMarket Insights predicts. The competition is growing and so is the need to differentiate wearable devices. So far, we have seen wearables expanding their capabilities and beginning to compete on user experience. Better user experience means integrating into users lives and developing ways for them to interact with the 3rd party apps they already know and love.

The user experience must satisfy a use case for an indispensable device that users will want to wear everyday. The user experience must fit the wearer. Soon consumers will expect much of the same functionality from their wearable device as they do from their smartphones, and location will play a crucial role in delivering it.

FiLIP Technologies, a startup that has developed a wearable phone and locator for children called FiLIP, is using Skyhook to power location-based user experiences. With a target market of children ages 4-11, the FiLIP device is one of the first wearable phones made specifically for kids to pass FCC and CE certifications in the US and Europe.

FiLIP partners with AT&T, and just announced a partnership with Telefonica at Mobile World Congress to bring their services to Europe and Latin America.

In order to understand how wearable leaders are approaching the market and creating vital user experiences, we spoke to FiLIP’s Director of Software Engineering, Joe Hughes, on the direction of the wearables industry in 2015 and how FiLIP differentiates in the crowded marketplace.

1) How does FiLIP differentiate itself in a crowded market of smartwatches?

Most people know smartwatches as devices that are tethered to the user's smartphone via Bluetooth. In other words, they don't work independently of a smartphone. FiLIP was designed to operate independently of a smartphone because most children don't have a smartphone until age 11 or 12.

As a result, FiLIP has built-in cellular capability to enable the child to make and receive calls to/from family members or friends.  Also, FiLIP can send its location to the parent’s smartphone over the cellular network.

Finally, FiLIP differentiates from other smartwatches by having a very clear and simple value proposition -- stay connected to your children at all times, with FiLIP's five easy to use features:

  • Voice calls to/from five pre-approved numbers
  • Locate your child indoors or out
  • Send a short message to your child
  • Receive notifications when your child enters or leaves a SafeZone
  • Intelligent Emergency procedure for getting help to your child when they need it.

2) How do you see advances in wearable and sensor technology influencing child safety?

It’s more than just safety. Our goal is to make devices, platforms and applications that actually connect entire families - not just the child. Filip is very focused on providing value to the child and making the child’s life activities more enjoyable. We want to make it easy for the child to interact with their environments, as well as providing care. We live in such a disconnected, hectic world and FiLIP allows parents and children to be connected to each other in real time.

In this day and age, people’s smartphones are an extension of them, for better or worse, and people don’t leave their house without them. Children need a device that is comfortable for them but that has similar features to a phone - and if it wasn’t wearable kids would lose it. The FiLIP 2 has the ability to provide some of the same types of features and functionality for kids that parents and teens have come to rely on. We provide this for children in a way that makes sense for them while providing peace of mind for parents.

This is the tip of the iceberg. People talk about how the Internet revolutionized the world. I feel, one of the biggest thing the Internet did was provide easily accessible knowledge and information to the masses, and I think wearable devices will become an extension of this.

When you think about IOT you think of smart home appliances all connected to each other, but with wearables it is really about you, your environment and how the wearable can seamlessly interact with both. With the Internet, you need to make a conscious decision to engage with it whether it is through your computer, or tablet, or smartphone, but when it comes to wearables, the opportunity exists for them to make those connections for you without you having to think about them. For instance with the FiLIP 2, the parent can create SafeZones around say their house or their child’s school and the parent and child no longer need to think about calling or texting to ensure the child left or arrived safely. Our Platform does it for them.

3) What are the roadblocks that wearable and sensor technology will have to overcome to make a difference and continue to grow in popularity?

Form factor, design and battery. By nature of the term “wearables” one understands that these devices need to be wearable, friendly and comfortable to a vastly diverse audience to achieve mass adoption. For a Grandmother to carry around in her purse the same phone as her grandson carries in his pocket is one thing but designing a watch or bracelet or necklace that appeals to both demographics is not an easy task.

I think for various technical and financial reasons a significant percentage of the wearable community is in a phase where there is a single base design or model and we try to accessorize it to change it’s appearance. I’m not convinced that the public has bought into this and in the long term this is what the future of wearables holds.

Additionally, these wearables are packed full of all kinds of neat technology which can at times be pretty battery hungry. It’s a constant struggle between the designers and engineers to make a device that is appealing enough and light enough for the user while still being able to have a battery with enough capacity to meet the technical needs of the wearable and expectations of the user regarding device longevity.   

4) What is the role of 3rd party apps in the wearable industry?

Filip_smartwatchThird party apps are critical to the greater adoption of wearables. Just like for smartphones, third party apps help provide more features and functionality in order for people to make the most use of their wearable. Ultimately, the apps become the catalyst for mass market adoption.

At Filip, we are building a platform for families that will interact with all types of devices. It is imperative that the fragmented ecosystem we see, where devices only work with their own apps, goes away. The fragmentation is bad for adoption. Having an open platform for the exchange of information is critical to allowing us to see the potential of what wearables can do.

Once you have the platform and the data that is accessible, I can’t even imagine what other people will come up with. Watching and seeing what people can do with open APIs is incredible. By getting that data exposed and available and uniquely accessible, it is amazing what people can build. I see the same things with wearables, and we still haven’t even thought of all the cool things we will build yet.

5) How will location data affect the UX of wearables?

Accurate location makes UX much simpler and easier to build. You are giving your users exactly what you say you will deliver. With inaccurate location, it makes it difficult to provide the personal experience to the customer, and it is a lot of work to make the customer happy. There is a lot of messaging that goes into that along with workarounds. But with accurate location the experience is seamless and location can be transparent in the UX/UI. When precise location is just known, it is great because it is one less thing to worry about.  

Location is the core enabling technology to FiLIP. Location is the “where”- it is one of the core 5 questions kids learned growing up, following who, what, when, and why. It is one of the things people always want to know. We have only scratched the surface of what we can do with location. Time and location together can do really cool things by adding a level of context, and we will continue to grow and combine the two.

6) What does the future of wearable tech look like, what milestone will the wearable community achieve in the next 12 months?

Well, one of the limitations of a lot of wearable tech is they don’t have really large and engaging screens and your ability to interact with them is somewhat limited. I think in the next year we are going to begin to see more of the big players begin to integrate wearables into their ecosystem that should really help with mass adoption. I also believe we are going to see even more companies building, releasing, and promoting new devices.

7) If you could enable any new kind of functionality on your wearable device, what would it be?

That’s a good question. We have lots of really fun things in development and R&D right now so I’m not sure I can talk about that.. I can tell you that I think you kind of need to be a child at heart to work for a company like FiLIP and the 8 yr. old practical jokester in me would love if the FiLIP 2 could act as a universal remote so I could play tricks on my dad and maybe even my teachers at school…. but I’m pretty sure that’s not a feature we will be adding as I don’t think the Moms would approve.



About Joe Hughes

As Filip’s Director of Software Development, Joe Hughes is responsible for the software and platforms that power the FiLIP Technologies ecosystem.


About FiLIP Technologies, Inc.

FiLIP Technologies, Inc. develops communication and location-based products and services designed to keep families in touch. Its products combine the two most important elements in family mobile offerings – communications and safety. The company's flagship product, FiLIP, is the world's first wearable phone and locator for children. Its patent-pending technology combines cellular voice with geo-location capability in a device small enough to be worn on a wrist. Founded in 2009 by Sten Kirkbak after he briefly lost track of his young son Filip in a shopping mall, Filip Technologies, Inc. is privately held with headquarters in New York, N.Y. For more information, please visit www.myfilip.comwearables_london