It was around the same time that we started FashNerd.com that I came across Scott Amyx. Based in the San Francisco Bay area, Amyx is founder and CEO of Amyx+ and managing partner at Venture1st. As a futurist and thought leader in the Wearables and Internet of Things space, he has spoken all over the globe, evangelizing about how technology will soon change our lives. With such a demanding schedule it was great that Amyx was able to take some time out to sit down with me and discuss how we can speed up the adoption of different technologies by the mainstream. And also what is necessary for different industries to merge in a successful manner.
MANO: You are already considered a thought leader and futurist in the wearable tech and IoT space. So when did all of this start for you Scott?
SCOTT: My career history has always been in business strategy and innovation. My last corporate position was as VP product management in a company that was acquired by Fiserv. Two and a half years ago I started working for myself. I recognized that although there are great opportunities on the mobile side, I did realize, through research, that there was an emerging trend in the space of Wearables and the Internet of Things. It was our research component that puts us on the map and now with Amyx+ we are setting out strategies and technical execution for enterprises for the next 3-5, up to 10 years down the line.
But beyond research, we are also helping execute for some of our enterprise clients, developing new technologies, implementing advanced data analytics, enhancing IoT security applications and incorporating hardware capabilities. But it’s never about the technology first. For example, we are working with a jewellery maker Richline Group, who are looking to install a Bluetooth component into their jewellery. Through data analytics, machine learning capabilities will help them use technology to create an experience that can be shared with the ones you love.
M: Looking back, in the context of your thought leadership in one hand and the pace of evolvement of technology in the other, was there ever a moment where you had to pivot your thinking in terms of strategy? And can you give an example of this?
S: I know there have been many things we have been talking about in the past that are slowly coming to fruition today. Like last year, when almost everybody was talking about the Internet of Things platform and how our sensory data from clothing or jewellery is collected, taking it into the cloud and preparing it for data analytics interpretation taking all rules and policies into account. I was talking about automation, workflow and intelligence. Taking data is one thing, but the challenge lies more in the field of making the data useful.
For these ‘Things’, whether they are clothing, or smart home devices, it is not good enough if these are just for sensing. The real value lies in actionable, predictive insights and devices working together, without any human involvement, triggering an automated workflow and negotiating with each other. On top of that, for fashion it means that the technology should be seamlessly integrated so it’s not visible. Fashion consumers should not have to think about tech; they are not buying it for the tech in the first place. At the same time the tech should enhance and support an eco-system.
M: Personally, I can’t wait for the first generation of wearables to pass. It is easy for me to understand how many professionals in the digital health space are still looking for evidence that medically graded wearables can really add value. We are still in the era where the best offer lies in increasing awareness through measuring biometrics, hoping to motivate users to exercise. So what do you think that the next generation of wearables will offer in terms of added value?
S: Of course the aspiration for the wearable tech space is to enter the medical sphere, because that’s when wearing wearables becomes more necessary and life saving. Subsequently some devices can be prescribed by our doctors. Our company has been speaking at medical events for some time. There are many cases that prove the success of increased self-awareness, but there are technologies that can non-invasively detect blood flow and levels of saturated fat within your blood vessels. It can look at the potential of a stroke and a heart attack. So wearables and clothing can capture an incredible amount of valuable information from our bodies.
We have always been very bullish on the fabric’ side than the device side, with the reason in mind that the wrist isn’t always the best place to measure things like heart rate for example, or any other specific data. Simply put, with clothing you cover more of the body and therefore can measure physiological information about the body. With clothing you can also place unique sensors in appropriate places where it needs to be measured, which assures that you get the most accurate data. More so with clothing, besides measuring body metrics you can also measure movement or body language that can give you a clear indication of your geo-spatial context. Even how you feel and your energy levels. In other words you will be more aware of your overall health and well-being. The holy grail will probably be when you can get down to the neuro-chemical level where we can measure our level of alertness, arousal or any emotional state.
All this is possible just as long as we can measure the human body, whether it be through a dress, a scarf, a shirt or even an undergarment. Clothing will soon be able to collect all this interesting data from the body, becoming a massive medical monitor that looks at your mood, your interest level and your general well being. And some of this clothing will be medically graded and approved. But again, it’s not about the technology. It’s about predictive, cognitive data. The analytics will give us insight about what’s happening, putting us in a better position to predict the consequences of our behaviour. Which subsequently can increase the necessity to wear all this great technology.
M: Last year you wrote, “Winning the wearables race through human psychology“ for Wearable-technologies.com. In the article it seemed like you hinted that it doesn’t seem like wearable tech manufacturers understand the psychological needs that consumers have. You mentioned the need for love, belonging and self-esteem. We are 1.5 years further down the line, have you noticed any improvements? Are entrepreneurs and startups on the right track?
S: Not at all. Most entrepreneurs in this field have a background in mechanical, electrical or software engineering. They are trying to solve a technical problem. But the thing is this; whether we are talking about fashion, cars or luxury goods, in the end it is not about the physical product, but rather what does the product do for me on an emotional level. We do things based on the need that we have. Our purchasing decisions will be based upon this need, which is love for women and respect for men, leading up to basically what Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is explaining. Where it all leads to is self-actualization. If you can hit the core of this human element, then that’s when things will get really exciting.
I always love to use the example of GoPro and Google glass. One of the reasons why GoPro has been successful is because GoPro hits the core of the human element. The footage taken by the mounted camera is taking a picture of you, and by doing so it enhances one’s self, while the Google glass, besides giving information and taking pictures and video of random people out on the street, is doing nothing for the wearer. So technology has just amplified the need to put the focus on ourselves.
M: I think it is safe to say that for most of us, our lives are filled with commitments that we actually don’t want to do, but we have to, to enable us to do what we really want to do. And since time is our most valuable asset, if technology can offer a better quality of life, make our lives easier and free up some cognitive space, how do you see technology being more meaningful in that field?
S: For some time we have been talking about two hemispheres. One of these is the cognitive artificial intelligence (AI), which has been in research for a while now. Cognitive AI is looking at the rational human behaviour and thought processes. You can think of applications like Viv and Alexa. Ultimately, it covers automation and efficiency in the context of AI personal assistants. In the end, we will all have our own neural network that will be our own AI personal assistant serving as an intermediary to everything else. Working as our primary interface to everything around us with one goal in mind, making our lives easier whenever and wherever it can. It is this kind of technology that is really going to set us free of all the mundane types of activities that we do on a daily basis.
The other area is the qualitative or emotional AI, which is talking about the softer side of humans. A friend AI agent that understands you and becomes a trusted friend, supports your emotional needs and encourages you achieve your greater self.
“We will all have our own neural network that will be our own AI personal assistant serving as an intermediary”
Imagine this cheerleader AI, tapping into a degree of sub-consciousness that is raw, aiming to light up the fire that’s within each and every one of us, giving them the confidence that will help them take incremental steps to change their career or improve a relationship. It is basically an AI that helps you to do the things that you are passionate about so you can get more out of life. For example, I am an introvert, I am afraid of speaking in public. So how on earth did I become a global thought leader and a speaker? Because I intentionally took incremental steps that eventually brought me to where I am today. But if you would ask me, would I do these things 10 years ago, there is no way I could imagine doing so. But when you take everyday people, and encourage them in a way that resonates with their core, people begin to self-actualize. That’s when people are able to realize life-enhancing changes.
M: We see a lot of collaborations going on in the space between technology and fashion companies. Do you think that, to be adopted by the masses, the wearable tech industry needs the fashion industry? Or is this a misconception?
S: There are a lot of interesting companies and brands working together, but many of the collaborations are happening too late in the process. I know that incubators like NYFTlab are a great platform. They are collaborating a bit more tightly between brands and technology. What we will probably see for some time is that technologists will develop a product first and then try to find some sort of collaboration.
But the problem with that approach is that this fashion segment is very picky. They are not going to embrace bulky devices that notifies us of incoming calls. They simply won’t. The product is going to have to come with some emotional needs first. So in other words, fashion has to come first and then technology should follow . One major jewellery maker aspires to build jewellery components with inherent electrical properties. So instead of affixing bulky electrical components, for instance, onto a wedding ring, they are asking how can the band itself, using material science, have technology inherently be built in the fashion. This will take tremendous research and development, but that is where the future is heading. Whether it is integrated in devices, even at the fibre level.
M: Moving on from wearables to the Internet of Things. In the context of the smart home and Lifestyle tech, I like to think that we can almost change the word fashion into design, and the same rules could still apply in terms of aesthetics. More than the wearable tech space, the space of the IoT seems to be one big mess right now. At least in terms of communicating added value to consumers. I wrote about this on Wired, where I mentioned the challenge for the industry to keep things simple with the aim to make it easier for the Internet of Things to be adopted. Where do you think the industry is failing? If you think it is, and in which areas could we speed up the process of consumers getting more excited about technology in the smart home?
“The time when our fridge, stove, microwave and dishwasher work together in orchestration fashion is not yet available but it’s coming.”
S: There are indeed plenty of friction points. For instance the setup of configuration is very cumbersome and the connection of Bluetooth is often lost. Then there is the issue of lack of common interoperability between devices. Although companies like Apple, Samsung and Google are all working hard to solve this, in the end consumers do not want to choose only between proprietary ecosystems and then be locked into one brand.
Right now what we are experiencing is basically the birth of a new category. Still in its infancy stage, it will take some time before products and the setup process become frictionless for consumers. The time when our fridge, stove, microwave and dishwasher work together in orchestration fashion is not yet available but it’s coming. For consumers, we will see a trend towards a speech interface or (natural language processing) such as Viv that will allow us to intuitively interact with smart devices with ease. The challenge, I think, really lies in understanding our human context and needs, and developing an orchestration logic layer to enable smart things to work together without human intervention. So who knows, only time will tell if we will end up with a conveyor belt Jetsons family type of kitchen.