Talking with Trendsetters: Noble Ackerson, Founder, Byte an Atom Research

Article ImageThere is perhaps nothing more exciting--and challenging--to the world of digital content creators than the idea of wearable devices, and Noble Ackerson is at the forefront of this burgeoning field. "I was fortunate to be brought in at the ground floor of Google's Glass Explorer program. And as one of the first explorers, I had the pleasure of interfacing with the Glass team quite a bit," he says. "The technical and user experience insights gained from being a so-called Glass Pioneer, coupled with a decade of technical and business experience, made my leap to wearables a natural one."

Ackerson is currently director at APX Labs, which enables enterprise customers to deploy smartglass-based solutions for their workforces. But he is also the founder of Byte an Atom Research, which created LynxFit, an exercise publishing platform for wearable electronic devices. "The technology's frictionless ability to keep the wearer connected to the information she cares about, when she needs it," he says, "and the safety implications that come with not having to stare through the lens of a mobile device while in motion attracted me to think up new ways to innovate on this new medium."

Out of Ackerson's enthusiasm for this emerging technology, LynxFit was born. "LynxFit empowers fitness and rehab content creators to motivate and hone end users' technique by accessing the sensors in the wearable," says Ackerson. "LynxFit is now extending the technology platform to the 500 million wearables forecasted in 2016. The LynxFit platform allows content owners to repurpose, calibrate, and customize their content to over five different wearable platforms. This also gives content owners, for the first time, data on how and when their users use the content."

He adds, "LynxFit is unique because of the advantage wearable devices gives the wearer in leveraging motion and biometric sensors versus an app on a detached mobile device." But LynxFit isn't the only product he's helped develop for the wearable market.

"I've advised on smart glasses-enabled hands-free solutions for news publications, athletic organizations, and, most recently, a solution for providing museums with the ability to send the smart glasses' wearer contextual information from wireless beacons located where museum artifacts would be viewed," Ackerson says.

Anyone who truly wants to be successful on these new platforms has to be realistic about the limitations of the current hardware and the hurdles that are still to be overcome. Ackerson sees a few main issues that are slowing down progress in the wearable arena. "First, performance. The hardware has yet to reach a point where battery life and heat dissipation isn't an issue," he says. "Second, price. Until performance improves and the cost of hardware reaches close to commodity, devices will not be cost-effective enough to be ubiquitous. Third, the killer app/ecosystem. As price/performance work toward an equilibrium, we will have to work through the pains of walled gardens and trials of finding the compelling user scenarios that make wearable technology a differentiator from mobile or desktop-based technologies."

As wearable devices-and the Internet of Things in general-proliferate, content creators are still rushing to keep up with new platforms and devices. That isn't an easy task. Ackerson has a few words to the wise for anyone developing a wearable content strategy: "As we saw when we took on creating content for tablets, mobile, or the myriad of desktop form factors before it, content creators have to be very conscious about designing for each wearable form factor. It's easy to ‘shovelware'-that is, port a mobile app to your smartwatch solution, but that is a quick way to starve user adoption. Smart glasses and other wearable form factors have unique user interaction, and thus creators have to embrace the new capabilities afforded to them."

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