Behind the Basis Band's Pre-Launch Hype
There's no shortage of health gadgets at CES this year. But one that impressed me is the Basis Band, which you wear like a watch but instead of telling time it monitors things like heart rate, Galvanic Skin Response (which indicates your stress level), caloric burn, and sleep.
Once it starts shipping in a few months my bet is it's going to be a hit with consumers who increasingly are buying self-tracking devices. Why? Unlike other body-measuring tools, such as arm bands, chest, or forehead straps, this little baby can stay on your wrist 24/7 and holds a charge for a week. And I'd actually enjoy keeping it there all the time because it looks stylish and hip.
You can even take the sensor mechanism off the Basis band and attach it to your wrist using your own wristbands or other materials, meaning you can match it will different outfits. The device also syncs all its measurements to the simple and clean-looking Basis cloud platform, which also includes social and gaming components.
I first started hearing about Basis when I wrote about the a growing movement called "The Quantified Self" that was originally developed by Kevin Kelly, a co-founder of Wired magazine, and Wired contributing editor Gary Wolf. Adherents to the QS tend to believe that by using the plethora of gadgets, smartphones, and applications available, they can quantify their lives and make adjustments in behavior, if needed, resulting in a higher quality of life.
In addition to using multiple sensors (not just an accelerometer that tracks movement) and creating a health gadget that actually looks stylish, Basis is a company to watch. It took first place at a Health 2.0 event in October, was called an "awesome new affordable heart and health tracker" by TechCrunch, and was one of 10 devices in this year's CES competition Last Gadget Standing, in which CES attendees and online voters choose their favorites.
That's a lot of hype for a product that isn't even shipping yet. So what's the secret sauce?
The company's founder and chief alliance officer, Nadeem Kassam, says Basis has two critical things going for it.
A team that's passionate about the product. Last year he raised $9 million in Series A financing then worked on building his team, including the snatching of his director of product, Julie Wilner, away from Google Health. "The most important thing you can possibly focus on is surrounding yourself with an amazing team. The first couple of people you bring onto your start-up kind of shape the path of where it goes in the form of culture and building the technology," he told me at CES while touting all Basis's features.
Wilner herself agrees that the mix of Basis employees is key. "I'm a triathlete. We've got a lot of runners. We've got people who do boxing, people who are yoga enthusiasts. [These different perspectives] feed into how the product is shaped," she says.
A serious focus on design and usability. Kassam, who dreamed up Basis in Vancouver more than six years ago with the original goal of fighting childhood obesity, has by no means rushed into the already crowded health tracking space. Rather quite the opposite.
"These devices and these technologies are so deeply scientific and they provide such interesting data that if the user is not able to very simply interact with it, it's all for nothing. So the user experience is extremely important. For us it's just really important to launch when it's ready and get it right to the point where we're very comfortable with it," Kassam says.
Wilner says the medical industry has some interesting technology in development but people don't always find it easy to use or don't want to wear it.
"I think that one of the most interesting things that we've done is to continue to focus on the end user. We're making a device that we're excited to give to our friends and family. We want them to understand how to interact with it. And have a device that looks good enough that they want to wear it. Ultimately, we want to help them make better health choices," she says.