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Building Services for Wearables: Google Glass App for HBF Fitness

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Wearable devices are oh so hot! Yet only a few years ago the vast majority of Australians had barely heard of them, let alone used one. This year wearable brands are becoming household names, from Jawbone to Fitbit and from Pebble to Google Glass, there’s no doubt wearable devices will be hot stocking stuffers this festive season. And with the IDC forecasting 30 billion devices to be connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) by 2020, Santa’s wish list will be including wearable devices for many years to come.

The big question in corporate IT is how to integrate wearables into a digital strategy. What are the benefits to the wearer, the business and its stakeholders? How can wearable devices improve the interactions between users and business information systems? One thing is clear, a winning wearable strategy will bring measurable benefits to both the users and the business, via disruptive new services that they enable.

As with most new connected devices, most large corporates consider only wearables as a customer device and forget the applications within the enterprise. Not so HBF (WA’s largest health insurer). They identified an opportunity to enhance their members’ experience of HBF Fitness (their free fitness program for members) by offering a more personalised workout in a group fitness setting.

A relatively new service, HBF runs free fitness sessions for its members in 20 locations around Western Australia. Anyone can register to attend a session using HBF’s online booking system, and then checkin to the event with their personalised code. Each trainer is responsible for managing the checkins, being aware of any participant’s health conditions, running the session, teaching activities, and keeping everything running on time. As you can imagine, that’s a big task for large groups.

HBF looked to wearables to help streamline the process, provide its members a more personalised workout and to ensure a standardised workout for all its members, regardless of the location they trained at. It decided to trial Google Glass due to its unique characteristics, specifically that:

– it sits on your face like traditional glasses
– it can be operated hands-free
– and it can record what it ‘sees’

These features make it a great tool for undertaking tasks whilst users are very active. A trainer can focus his/her attention on the class, while still being able to dip into useful functions to assist the participants or keep the class schedule on track.

HBF partnered with Adapptor to build a bespoke Google Glass app specifically for trainers to assist with running their classes. We’re no stranger to Android, so with that as our foundation, we were able to pick up the unique parts of the Glass Development Kit and quickly create the application. The key requirements/features included:

– integrating with HBF’s own Fitness schedules, allowing the trainer to control an intelligent stopwatch that matched the class schedule,
– integration with HBF’s Fitness system to checkin registrations and view participant’s individual health and fitness information so training sessions can be adapted accordingly,
– video record and playback via the Cloud to show a participant how to improve their form,
– and real-time weather information.

When developing for Glass we had to be particularly mindful of some unique UX challenges such as:

– the way the user interacts with the Glass, whether this is by touch gestures, or voice
– and the useable screen real estate (not very much).

Once these UX components were carefully scoped, it was just a matter of us applying our Android skills to the mix. We worked tightly with HBF’s Digital Services team and delivered the final Glass app in just three weeks, ready for field testing.

With everything working as intended in the office,  HBF organised a trial fitness class to put the app through its paces. This enabled us to observe the instructor use the application in a ‘live’ environment and pick up on any UX changes or environmental challenges. Other than leaving our team feeling incredibly unfit, the application worked brilliantly, and feedback from the trainer, Max, was very positive.

Other than being out of breath we were left with a few key take aways from the experience. Insights that lend themselves to most wearable projects:

– understand the device’s unique benefits;
– understand the device’s limitations;
– develop the features based on the user problem, device benefits and limitations;
– pay careful attention to the UX and UI throughout the scope, design, and development process;
– take your testing to the field.

Matching a device’s capabilities to a benefit and knowing its limitations are the keys to building successful wearable services. Fortunately HBF understood how it wanted to use the device right from the start which made our job much easier.

Now to go get fit, so the next wearables project isn’t so embarrassing.

(cover image: Giuseppe Costantino)

Posted by adapptadmin in News