No Fuel In The Band

If you don't read Cory Treffiletti's Online Spin post every week, you should -- because he is one of the smartest, nicest kids on the block, and he always has interesting insights on our business.

Well, most of the time, anyway. This past week in a column essentially about Google Glass, he wrote in part: "Wearable computing is the next big thing as we evolve into the 'Internet of things.'  Each of these devices becomes a signal by which we can monitor and manage our lives using a digital lifestyle dashboard.  Personally I love FitBit and Nike Fuel Band, but these are less invasive and more user-initiated."

Nike Fuel Band? Really? It is nothing more than a $150 piece of conversation-starting jewelry for the gymeratti set. Here's how it works. Someone gives it to you for Father's Day, and everybody comments on how cool it looks. At least one of your kids says he wishes he had one. Snapping it on, you feel as if your cholesterol count just dropped 50 points and, if there were one starting just outside your door right now, you could cruise a 2:30 marathon. Your benchpress max just moved from 135 to 275.



When you walk down the street, you are pretty sure that folks are stopping in their tracks, fixated on the matte black bangle on your wrist and thinking, "Wow, I bet that guy is some sort of god-body who is also all about the latest in technology."

Little do they know how useless the Fuel Band really is.  All it does is apply some sort of voodoo algorithmsto the motion it senses from either walking or running, or anything that moves your arm EXCEPT weight-bearing exercises. It then translates this into NikeFuel, "a universal metric of activity," which DOES NOT really indicate calories burned. If your primary workout is lifting weights or spinning (as you guessed it, mine are) the Band cannot calculate the "energy units" you consume. I called Nike to ask why strapping it on my ankle while I biked wouldn't work -- and they said cheerfully, "Well you could, but it's not made for that. Have a great day."

So what you have is a metric that means almost nothing. Yes, it shows how "active" you were today (within Nike's definitions of active), and when you plug it into the Nike Band website, it lets you compare how active you were today vs. yesterday or last week, but there it ends. (BYW, you can scam the "count" by pumping your wrist while watching TV.)

But honestly, you don't need a technology device to tell you that you skipped the gym yesterday or that you burned x number of fuel units gardening on Saturday. You already know that.

There is no program to suggest that you eat less or work out more or do this exercise more than that one. It’s only a measure of activity (that can be easily scammed if you are a compulsive goal achiever) which at the end of the day means nothing. But I guess you still look cool to those who don't have one.

The point here is that if you are going to develop new technology, at least make it useful. I see tons of apps that are only marginally helpful at what they claim to do -- and once we all get over the shock and awe of Google Glass, will it be more than an expensive toy?  Can't say, since I haven’t tried it. But I can tell you that the Nike Fuel Band is just that -- an expensive toy.

4 comments about "No Fuel In The Band".
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  1. John Andrews from The Katadhin Company, June 7, 2013 at 9:03 a.m.

    George, I'd like to respectfully disagree. The Nike Fuel band has an amazing ability to socialize the central brand promise of "Just do It".

    We gave all of our employees at Collective Bias fuel bands for holiday gifts. What we find is many of our folks actively compete with each other and at the very least, are more aware of their overall fitness levels.

    There are already examples of companies leaning in to incorporate fuel band data into their businesses including Walgreens (client) who is rewarding fuel band users for activity.

    I think the promise is in the telemetry created by the constant stream of data. There will be many innovative uses for that data as more users begin to adopt wearable technology.

    As an anecdotal testament, I just passed 1MM Nike Fuel points and am quite possibly in the best shape of my life. One reason I will credit is the constant reward I get from running more miles than some of my friends.

  2. Scott Brinker from ion interactive, inc., June 7, 2013 at 9:08 a.m.

    "A metric that means almost nothing" -- those are pretty hot these days. ;-)

  3. Kate Benson from Martens & Heads!, June 7, 2013 at 9:35 a.m.

    cvs sells a $19.95 clip on device that measures all the same stats-won't connect to PC- but displays all data singly or collectively... fuelwhat?

  4. George Simpson from George H. Simpson Communications, June 7, 2013 at 9:59 a.m.

    The award for "Best Supporting Comment in an Over The Line column" goes to....Scott Brinker.

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