For Humanity Innovation Labs, it's all about the wearables

The Portland company works with clients to research and design new wearable technologies whether its a sensor embedded wetsuit, a fitness tracker or a smart pill. Whether you’ve worn a fitness activity tracking wristband while on a run or used a smartwatch to make calls you’re part of the consumer wearable technology trend.

What you may not have thought about is the many design decisions that go into making an “internet of things” device that can be worn on the body or embedded in the body. Recently, I spoke with Stephanie Battista, founder of Humanity Innovation Labs, about the research, user experience and industrial design behind consumer wearables. She revealed that there is a tremendous amount of initial exploratory research that takes place before the design process begins.

According to Battista, the internet of things environment provides a much more complex web of user interfaces and to be considered. And, that’s where Humanity Innovation Labs comes in. The lab was started in late 2016 and draws on Battista’s 17 years of working in lifestyle, fitness and mobile technology. The company works with clients on proof of concept designs, usability pilots and first-generation devices.

“One of the largest opportunities in this space is the integration of physiological and psychological data,” she said. “Using wearables to collect data from the body and providing a feedback loop helps people make better decisions. You should be looking at a holistic data set that incorporates information about what drives behavioral change. Ultimately, wearables are designed to help individuals make better informed, real-time decisions.”

However, for all the promise of wearables, Battista said there are still challenges, primarily the lack of maturity in the base technology and the feedback loop it is supposed to create.

“Current wearables often use a subset of biometric data such as heart rate, activity, sleep, which doesn’t incorporate neurological or emotional data. This is a subset of a person – the triggers are in their emotional and cognitive states,” she said. “Secondly, most devices incorporate nutrition but require the user to provide the inputs with appropriate food combinations and measurements,” she said.

As the technology continues to develop, Battista sees the next wave of wearables in the mixed reality realm, or some combination of virtual and augmented reality. Looking ahead, Battista said her primary focus for the coming year will be on research and development followed by licensing her lab’s smart technologies to
companies that have scalable go-to-market internet of things strategies.

“Our approach is to remain low profile and under the radar as long as possible, so that we can remain lean while continuing to work on the things that really matter,” said Battista. “Having the ability to see the forest through the trees in technology is incredibly difficult but it is the differentiator in our work and the value we offer.”

Stephanie Battista