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"The Importance of Nike to Apple’s Future Smart Clothing Product" in Humanizing Tech

Nike and Apple have a long-standing relationship. Tim Cook, the current CEO of Apple, has been on the Board of Nike since the fall of 2005 when he was COO of Apple. The Director of Fitness for Apple Watch is Jay Blahnik, who came from a long stint at Nike and helped develop the Fuel Band. That likely wasn’t a diffection but rather a planned, strategic move to get the companies more strategically aligned.

Nike used the agency, R/GA, to build and launch the FuelBand back in 2011–2012 but they both knew that leaving the tech to Apple and the fitness to Nike was the best way to marry their own specialties and self interests. So Nike shut down their Fuelband division before the Apple Watch was ever announced last year.

The original Nike FuelBand. Everyone, everyone, would ask me, “But what’s Fuel and what do you do with it?”.

In terms of personal experience, I bought a FuelBand when it came out in early 2012 and wore it for 3 years, racking up over 3 million Nike Fuel points. My biggest gripe with the product is I couldn’t do anything with those points. It would have been fairly easy for Nike to create a rewards program around those points.

The more active you are, the more Fuel you earn, the more you get discounted off new shoes or clothes. Something like 1,000,000 Fuel points = $100, which amounts to a new pair of sneakers. I normally buy a new pair of FlyKnits every 4 to 6 months depending on the time of year. So depending on my activity level with the band I might get a free pair once a year. That’s an incentive I can get behind while also increasing my LifeTime Value (LTV in startup parlance), thereby creating a flywheel effect with the brand: FuelBand = more activity = more shoe/clothing wear = more purchases of Nike product = more usage of FuelBand = …you get the picture.

The amount of Nike Fuel I racked up over 3 years wearing the FuelBand

Before the FuelBand I was also wearing an iPod Nano with a product I got off Kickstarter. It was called the Lunatik and came with a small aluminum case with bands that slid over the top of the iPod. I strung my Apple headphone wires connected down my shirt sleeve to my wrist and plugged into the iPod. I wore my music on my wrist. And that was the first time I realized Apple was going to make a watch and invest in wireless ear pod technologies. It was the two most obvious things that would make using that fitness wearable + music product better.

Lunatik iPod Nano watch case and strap that likely attributed to Apple’s decision to make a Watch

I got an Apple Watch right after it came out last year (thanks Mia) and have worn it nearly every day for a year. In short, I’ve been using a fitness + music wearable since 2011. That’s 5 years! I also had an MP3 player way back in the year 2000 when you had to buy an expansion card just to hold 28 full songs. And it cost $500 for the deck of card-sized brick.

Most recently, in Q1 2016 Nike announced the HyperAdapt 1.0, which is a self-tightening/lacing shoe. Once you step into it, your heel activates a sensor that adjusts the shoe perfectly to fit your precise foot shape. There are + /- buttons on the side that let you fine-tune it if you wish. It’s likely the realization of a long-term vision that started with the Reebok Pump sneaker at the end of the 80s.

Nike HyperAdapt 1.0, self-lacing shoe available holiday 2016.

Many folks in and around the tech community talk about the Internet of Things movement, but they’re typically referring to, and thinking of, home-related products like Amazon’s Dash order button, Nest’s thermostat, or a connected fridge. But what they don’t often talk about is Connected Clothing.

What happens when our clothes become the “wearable” that we’ve been referring to the last few years? When it stops being a about having to wear an Apple Watch, but instead wearing Nike compression shirts, shorts, and shoes? When there’s a chip in it to measure not just our heart rate, but our hydration and heat levels, plus detect negative biological elements in our sweat and then compare that to the wearer’s performance (whether lifting, running, or playing)?

I think what happens is we get a lot, lot better at understanding our own bodies, making better choices about what we put in them, and making us more active to help us live longer, healthier lives.

And what’s a better product than the fountain of youth?

Introducing the Nike+ Apple Fountain of Youth. Get the clothes for $299 and the intelligence for $9/month.

Nike gave up on the Fuel Band as a division because they weren’t technologists. Apple was. It was a “Divide & Conquer” strategy. But eventually they’re going to have to come back together to make this connected clothing dream a reality.

With so many strategic relationships already in place between the two companies, and the continued development of Apple Music, Beats Wireless, and Ear Pods that can hold “1,000 songs in your ear”, measure heart rate all while Siri is whispering in your ear to “step your game up”, the future is theirs for the taking.

But I think there’s a very real possiblity that it could never happen. If there’s not a champion internally given the authority and the resources to bring something like this to market, then the idea will be squandered, only existing in posts like this, dusty old powerpoint decks, and closed-door whispers lost to the winds of time.

I’ve been playing sports, working out, and fascinated by technology my entire life. But there’s never been much of a quality intersection between these things. The best we have today is a watch that measures your heart rate, a phone that tracks your steps, and a shoe that laces itself.

We’ve got the beginnings of artificial intelligence, self-driving cars, rockets to mars, virtual reality, a collective human consciousness, and super computers in our pockets. But we’re sorely lacking in some of the things that could help improve our lives and make them more fun to live.

What we don’t have:

  • No headband with a glowing ring that circles your head faster the faster you run.
  • No pants that energize as you squat down with 300 pounds on your shoulder and prepare to release and explode up.
  • No sleeves that glow in the precise area that blood is flowing while you lift.
  • No shirt that detects your lung capacity and shows you’re only using 78% of it even though you feel like you’ve got nothing left in the tank.
  • No activity or fuel points that give you real rewards of more shoes, shorts, sleeves like Delta does with miles and flights.
  • No biometric readings telling you to lay off the french fries and soda because it caused you to breath 17% worse today.

My, what I wouldn’t give to see this become a reality. Is there anyone else out there like me?

— Sean

The Importance of Nike to Apple’s Future Smart Clothing Product was originally published in Humanizing Tech on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Read the responses to this story on Medium.

from Sean Everett on Medium http://ift.tt/1UEQUWI