Nike FuelBand’s Demise: End of Wearable Tech or a Sign of Bigger Things?

On Friday the wearable technology industry was rocked by news that sportswear heavyweight Nike is canning its wearable fitness tracker FuelBand SE.

The company is laying off between 70% and 80% of its Digital Sport hardware team, which is behind the company’s wearable fitness offerings, and has cancelled updated versions of the FuelBand that had been planned for release later this year.

The news, which was first reported by CNET, has shaken the wearable technology industry. Sports has long been seen as the primary market for wearables, with many analysts predicting that other uses will become mainstream after the technology has become normal in fitness.

But with Nike – one of the major players in wearable technology – pulling out, some are seeing this as the end of an industry that has barely started. Others, however, think Nike has taken a look at where the industry is going to go and has made a strategic decision to reposition before the game changes.

With Nike keeping quiet about its motives, we’ve collected the leading theories on what the company is planning.

nike-fuelband-1

iWatch incoming: did Tim Cook persuade Nike to ditch FuelBand?

Apple’s foray into wearable technology is expected later this year in the form of the iWatch, a wristband with iPhone connectivity. Assuming that occurs, the iWatch is likely to have a very big impact on the wearable technology market, potentially putting some rivals out of business.

Nike is keeping its fitness software around, leading some to reason that the company is planning to focus on software for the iWatch instead  and avoid taking Apple on at hardware. Forbes quoted wearables analyst Daniel Matte of Canalys Research as saying: “Competing with Apple on hardware is a very unappealing prospect.”

Nike wouldn’t even need to rely on rumour to know about the iWatch – Apple CEO Tim Cook sits on the Nike board and may well have dropped a few hints.

Death of wearables: did Nike abandon a dying industry?

For some, however, Nike’s move to can FuelBand is just a wider reflection of the industry as a whole.

According to this theory, Nike took a good look at the wearables industry – including the low sales, quick decline in use and general consumer hostility – and ran in the other direction.

Only time will tell if this one is right, but something tells us that this is more of a software vs hardware discussion than a wearables vs no wearables one.

Super software: canning hardware for a softer solution?

All of the employees that were fired were in the hardware division of a wider, larger software department that (apparently) has not been affected by Nike’s mysterious repositioning.

The company may be focussing more on fitness apps, which will no doubt be in part for Apple’s iPhone and possibly the iWatch.

However, Nike is also releasing the API for Nike+ later this year. The company may be planning to make its software into the standard for sports wearables, and take a backseat on hardware.

Poor planning: was the project just handled badly?

A post on anonymous sharing app Secret from last week also suggests that this was just a case of a mishandled project.

The anonymous poster, who is likely to be a current or ex Nike employee, said:  “The douchebag execs at Nike are going to lay off a bunch of the eng team who developed The FuelBand, and other Nike+ stuff. Mostly because the execs committed gross negligence, wasted tons of money, and didn’t know what they were doing.”


Images courtesy of Nike+.


Wanted man captured thanks to facial recognition

A Chinese man who was wanted by police for “economic crimes” – which can include anything from tax evasion to the theft of public property – was arrested at a music concert in China after facial recognition technology spotted him inside the venue.

Source: Abacus News

SpaceX president commits to city-to-city rocket travel

SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell has reiterated the company’s plans to make city-to-city travel — on Earth — using a rocket that’s designed for outer space a reality. Shotwell says the tech will be operational “within a decade, for sure.”

Source: Recode

Businessman wins battle with Google over 'right to be forgotten'

A businessman fighting for the "right to be forgotten" has won a UK High Court action against Google.. The businessman served six months’ in prison for “conspiracy to carry out surveillance”, and the judge agreed to an “appropriate delisting order".

Source: Press Gazette

UK launched cyber attack on Islamic State

The UK has conducted a "major offensive cyber campaign" against the Islamic State group, the director of the intelligence agency GCHQ, Jeremy Fleming, has revealed. The operation hindered the group's ability to co-ordinate attacks and suppressed its propaganda.

Source: BBC

Goldman Sachs consider whether curing patients is bad for business

Goldman Sachs analysts have attempted to tackle the question of whether pioneering "gene therapy" treatment will be bad for business in the long run. "Is curing patients a sustainable business model?" analysts ask in a report entitled "The Genome Revolution."

Source: CNBC

Four-armed robot performing surgery in the UK

A £1.5m "robotic" surgeon, controlled using a computer console, is being used to shorten the time patients spend recovering after operations. The da Vinci Xi machine is the only one in the country being used for upper gastrointestinal surgery.

Source: BBC

Virgin Galactic rocket planes go past the speed of sound

Virgin Galactic completed its first powered flight in nearly four years when Richard Branson's space company launched its Unity spacecraft, which reached supersonic speeds before safely landing. “We’ve been working towards this moment for a long time,” Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said in an email to Quartz.

Source: Quartz

Google employees protest being in "the business of war"

Thousands of Google employees, including dozens of senior engineers, have signed a letter protesting the company’s involvement in a Pentagon program that uses AI to interpret video imagery and could be used to improve the targeting of drone strikes. The letter, which is circulating inside Google, has garnered more than 3,100 signatures

Source: New York Times

Computer system transcribes words users “speak silently”

MIT researchers have developed a computer interface that transcribes words that the user verbalises internally but does not actually speak aloud. The wearable device picks up neuromuscular signals in the jaw and face that are triggered by internal verbalisations — saying words “in your head” — but are undetectable to the human eye.

Source: MIT News

Drones could be used to penalise bad farming

A report by a coalition of environmental campaigners is arguing squadrons of drones should be deployed to locate and penalise farmers who let soil run off their fields. Their report says drones can help to spot bad farming, which is said to cost more than £1.2bn a year by clogging rivers and contributing to floods.

Source: BBC

Californian company unveil space hotel

Orion Span, a California company, has unveiled its Aurora Station, a commercial space station that would house a luxury hotel. The idea is to put the craft in low-earth orbit, about 200 miles up, with a stay at the hotel likely to cost $9.5 million for a 12-day trip, but you can reserve a spot now with an $80,000 deposit.

UK mobile operators pay close to £1.4bn for 5G

An auction of frequencies for the next generation of mobile phone networks has raised £1.36bn, says regulator Ofcom. Vodafone, EE, O2 and Three all won the bandwidth needed for the future 5G mobile internet services, which are not expected to be launched until 2020.

Source: BBC