"Ipsa scientia potestas est" - knowledge is power. Never has Francis Bacon's adage been truer than in the digital age. The behaviour of modern society is underpinned by the collection of data and its subsequent interpretation into the hardest form of currency: information.
A US study found the average consumer processes 3.6 zettabytes of data (that's the equivalent of 5.1 trillion hard drives) per day and that statistic looks set to rise. From price comparison sites and social media to sleep performance, the list of personal KPIs many of us track on a daily basis challenges those monitored by some businesses.
Tech firms have been quick to marry this demand for information with another consumer passion, fitness, resulting in a boom in wearable technology and health tracking apps. Apple has announced that wearable tech sales have exceeded €5bn whilst last year Under Armour splashed out £380m on the weight loss app MyFitnessPal. Earlier this week Nokia finally completed its acquisition of Withings (a portmanteau of 'wireless' and 'things') to boost its branded digital health offerings and new market entrants such as low cost China-based Xiaomi are certainly increasing the competition.
This offering means we are now able to track our health and sporting performance at a level that would have staggered professional athletes only a decade ago. Information on everything from distance travelled to BMI, heart rates, VO₂ max and breathing training are all available at the tap of a button. This technology is set to progress further. One example is the Australian research agency CSIRO which has developed a prototype system that harvests energy from a user's gait to power the wearable device, whilst simultaneously using the gait patterns as a form of biometric authentication.
It's expected that the wearable tech market will consolidate in the medium term, with independent SMEs being acquired by larger players to enhance market share, access new markets and obtain the latest technology and innovation. With the UK, and the East Midlands in particular, being home to a hotbed of sports technology firms, it's an industry that's sure to set pulses racing.
Nokia first announced that it was acquiring Withings, for €170 million, back in April 2016. Based in Paris, Withings was founded in 2008 and has been at the forefront of the everyday lifestyle tracking movement. Its first product was a connected set of bathroom scales and it followed that up with blood pressure monitors and baby monitoring devices. Its first activity tracking wearable, the Pulse, launched in 2014, proceeded by the Activité smartwatch range that really put the company on the map. It is a brand that is seriously committed to the connected health revolution and, by snapping it up, Nokia seriously ramped up its own digital health ambitions. Those ambitions are demonstrated by not only rebranding the entire Withings product range to Nokia, but by two new products that have just been announced.