Enter The Kingdom of HOLY SHIT

January 07, 2010

It’s been a while since I last talked about anything tech-related, so here it goes.

I just experienced a HOLY SHIT moment. You know, when you discover something and you instantly know that it’s going to be huge, that it’s a game changer. Historically famous HOLY SHITS for me include Napster, the iPhone and, believe it or not, Amazon. Lately, I’m considering adding Spotify to that list, since I signed up for a Premium account and installed it on my iPhone, but that is a story for another day. Anyway, you get the idea.

DISCLAIMER: I took the liberty of borrowing the expression from Rands, because it is more accurate than any other term I could have come up with on my own, so there you have it. If you have a moment, you should totally read his original post, where you will learn what HOLY SHIT is all about.

OK, now that we cleared that out, let’s get on with my latest personal HOLY SHIT. I’m probably the last biped on Planet Earth to find out about this, but even so, the HOLY-SHITNESS of the moment stands. I’m talking about Fitbit.

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© 2009 Fitbit, Inc. All rights reserved.

If you have no idea of what I’m talking about, please don’t be embarrassed, even though you probably should be. I didn’t know about it until a couple hours ago either, so it’s not so terrible. But if you want to understand the rest of this post, you should go to their website and check it out before you continue reading. You can do it now, we’ll wait. It’s OK, don’t worry about it. Seriously, go.

Back already? Good. Let’s move on then.

Basically, what you should have learned from a brief visit to their web is that Fitbit is the latest start-up aiming for greatness. They have the idea. They have the skills. And their product is fantastic. It looks very polished, too. It’s a handy little gadget that will allow you to monitor your physical activity throughout your entire day, even while you sleep. And it doesn’t require any involvement on your part: the whole thing just works like magic. You just wear it any way you want: in your pocket, clipped to your belt or on a handy little wristband when you’re sleeping; and the device will take care of everything, syncing wirelessly to the web without you ever knowing about it. When you want to check your data, you simply log into the web and everything is there for you to see: how many steps you took, the distance you walked, the calories you burned, and even how long you were actually sleeping instead of just lying in bed. Awesome.

It also scales well. For more curious and involved users, you can find out how many calories you ate compared to the ones you burned by logging in the system the different meals you had. They make it easy for you to do it by letting you choose the meals from a stunningly comprehensive database.

And there’s more. Much more, but you have to see it for yourselves.

Not so impressed, you say? It’s understandable, I guess. But the thing is, to me, this is a truly astounding product. And not just because of the product itself, but the whole platform behind it, which is extremely well designed and very intuitive. I will admit that my opinion here is slightly biased, on account of previous experience. I was heavily involved in the design and development of a very similar platform, but with a clinical aim rather than a commercial one. It was the project I was involved in for my MSc Thesis, and it took more than a year’s worth of work from a really talented group of people. My point is that I am intimately aware of the technical challenges that need to be overcome in order to develop this type of product, for which I am all the more impressed with the result these good people have achieved. It’s an elegant, well rounded solution that makes me insanely jealous. Specially considering that, at least for now, the product is only available in the US. I can’t wait to get my hands on one.

It has not been an easy path for them, mind you. They are experiencing significant and repeated delays in the shipping process, but even then they are completely  straightforward and transparent about what is going on. So much so that you really can’t help but sympathize with them.

Then there’s also the business side of the story, of course. The fitness & wellness market is a fairly recent one, but it is growing at an incredible rate. New products pop up almost every day on practically every platform imaginable, and yet to this day, nobody has quite nailed the perfect model. In my humble opinion, the folks behind Fitbit have done just that. We’ve seen this before, most recently with the smartphone market and the arrival of the iPhone; and the music market and the iPod before that. These things happen. Every now and then, a revolutionary product appears, and you start to see possibilities that you never would have imagined before. And then the HOLY SHIT strikes you in all its glory.