Over the past 20 or 30 years, entrepreneurship has become democratized—and that’s a great thing, for the most part. But if we’re to better understand the tenets of entrepreneurial democratization and keep pushing for positive changes, we need to delve deeper into this topic.
What exactly is entrepreneurial democratization? How did it develop? And where can it go from here?
What Is Entrepreneurial Democratization?
Let’s start with the term entrepreneurial democratization. Democracy is a system of government we’re all familiar with—one in which every individual has a say. But democratization in this context refers to accessibility; in other words, how easy is it for a person to engage in this activity?
Democratized entrepreneurship means it’s easy for people to start businesses of their own, regardless of their background, their current income level, their previous knowledge and experience, and other factors. Over the years, this has increased sharply; today, almost anyone can start a business with minimal hurdles, depending on the model they choose.
Why Is Entrepreneurial Democratization Important?
Why is this an important topic? Democratized entrepreneurship offers a lot of advantages. For individuals, it means more freedom and flexibility when it comes to starting businesses. If you’re down on your luck, unemployed with no savings, you still have a chance to make something of yourself by creating a business from scratch. If you’ve spent 30 years building a career in one specific niche, you can still pivot and try to start something new.
It’s also important from a societal, economic, and cultural perspective. More accessible entrepreneurship means more people are going to be interested in starting businesses. New businesses lead to further technological innovation, more job creation, and profound economic growth in surrounding areas.
So what is it that spurred this great age of democratized entrepreneurship?
Website Builders and the Information Age
First, we need to acknowledge the role of the internet and all the marvelous tools that have come along with it. These days, it’s easy to build a website thanks to the prevalence of website builders. Using one of these innovative tools, you can design your website for free using basic templates—even if you have no previous coding or design knowledge and no money to pay a professional for help.
It’s also enormously beneficial to be able to consult the entirety of the internet when researching your business plan and making plans for the future. With a simple Google search, you can instantly see who your competition is, learn more about your target demographics, and even find a business plan template that you can use as a starting point for your work.
Marketing Tactics and Outreach
The internet has also changed the landscape of marketing and advertising. These days, digital marketing reigns supreme. With even a small budget, an entrepreneur can easily invest in a strategy that has the power to propel their business to competitive dominance. You can focus on writing and popularizing online content and optimize your site for search engines, practicing search engine optimization (SEO) to rank higher and earn more organic traffic. You can leverage the power of social media platforms, where it’s free to create an account and make new posts. You can also tap into pay per click (PPC) ads to drive guaranteed traffic to your site for a fixed fee per visitor.
The diversity of marketing options, the low costs, and the low barriers to entry here make it easier than ever to support a growing business.
We’re also seeing a new wave of entrepreneurial interest. People have always been interested in starting their own businesses, whether they want to make a lot of money or just have more flexibility in their daily schedule. But we’re seeing a massive resurgence of entrepreneurial interest that has created an environment that’s even more favorable to launching a new business.
For example, there are dozens of entrepreneurial podcasts to listen to. There are probably countless meetup groups and organizations in your city. There are hundreds of channels where you can find mentorship, peer support, and guidance. No matter where you look, you’ll be able to find encouragement when starting a new business.
These days, it’s possible to start a business with minimal education. You don’t need a formal background in business. You don’t need a master’s degree. All you need is a great idea, a solid understanding of business financials, and the confidence to make a compelling presentation to the people who might fund or support your business.
Loans and Financial Accessibility
This is also an era of unprecedented financial accessibility for entrepreneurs. For starters, we should acknowledge that it’s cheaper to start a business than it’s ever been before. You don’t need a physical retail space; you can sell online. You don’t need a factory to produce goods; you can sell digital services. You don’t even need an office space; you can operate remotely. And you can call upon countless online tools and educational resources to get almost everything you need for free.
If you do need more money to start a business, it’s relatively easy to get it. Business loans have lax requirements and low interest rates, and active angel investors and VCs are always looking for the next hot startup.
The Spark of Innovation
Modern innovation looks different than innovation of the past. To truly innovate 30 years ago, you might have needed to invest millions of dollars into a factory, utilizing some relatively unknown chemical process to make new materials. These days, you can innovate just by writing a new piece of software.
It’s possible for a single individual to innovate and make technological progress, even with limited experience. A single app can change the world.
Incubators and Accelerators
Have you noticed any new incubators or accelerators in your city? I’m guessing you have. These organizations are dedicated to helping entrepreneurs succeed, giving them mentorship, direction, advice, and sometimes even funding to make their business plan a reality. And they’re becoming much more popular. Knowing that such an organization exists might be enough to push someone over the edge, encouraging them to pursue entrepreneurship. Getting involved with an accelerator or incubator can also greatly increase your chances of success and give you a chance to help other entrepreneurs like you along the way.
In addition, the software tools (and the comparison sites that promote them) for small business are extensive, making it easy to find something that fits a need. Today’s entrepreneurs have a multiplicity of tools that are table stakes for managing a small business (e.g. CRM, marketing, finance, etc.). But sometimes overwhelming to make a decision due to analysis paralysis. Luckily, other entrepreneurs can help provide the reviews and feedback to help for quick decision making, which is one of the biggest boon for small business owners. Most entrepreneurs make decisions based on recommendations.
Where does it go from here? If we’re lucky, entrepreneurship should become even more democratized. This trend has built a lot of momentum over the years, and it’s likely to accelerate even further. These are just some of the developments that could help it flourish:
- Democratized ownership. One key avenue of development could be democratized ownership. Right now, if you want a piece of a company, you’ll have to put in assets of your own as a venture capitalist, angel investor, or similar interested party. Otherwise, you might have access to stock options as an employee if the company eventually goes public. But in the near future, we could see a model that incorporates the blockchain and tokenization to grant employees and partners even more access.
- Diversified VC portfolios. Modern venture capitalists are hungry for tech unicorns, and they tend to be fixated on certain types of business models. In the future, we could substantially benefit form an environment with more diversified and distributed portfolios.
- New funding models. We could also see the development of new funding models entirely. Equity crowdfunding is already possible (even though you’ll have to jump through some hoops to make it happen), so we could easily see development along these lines in the future.
Hopefully, we’ll continue to see entrepreneurship become further democratized. With more people starting businesses, more people investing in businesses, and more people interested in entrepreneurship in general, we could see marked economic benefits for decades to come.
When Will Chatbots Become Better Than Humans? – ReadWrite
How often do you have full conversations with chatbots? It might happen more than you think.
These days, millions of businesses are employing chatbots for sales, customer service, and dozens of other functions, giving people the fluidity and directness of conversation without requiring an actual human agent to step in.
Some of the advantages of this move are obvious; if a chatbot can automatically answer basic customer questions, you don’t have to hire a person for the role. You may also see a faster response time, greater consistency, and no fatigue or frustration.
But if your intuitions are in line with the average person’s, you’ll instinctively feel like chatbots aren’t quite at the human level yet.
So is this intuition true? And if not, could chatbots ever become better than humans? When can they do it?
What Constitutes “Better”?
These are complicated questions. They’re hard to answer in part because the utility of chatbots is so diverse; you can use chatbots to field customer service questions, generate leads, or even provide direct services to paying clients in some cases.
But these questions are also difficult because we need to acknowledge what we mean by “better.” What makes a chatbot better than a human?
There are several dimensions in which a chatbot could hypothetically be better than a human being, and in some of those dimensions, chatbots are already objectively superior.
- Cost efficiency. In terms of overall cost efficiency, there’s no comparison. Chatbots are irrefutably more cost efficient than their human counterparts. You’ll need to pay people hourly, or pay them an annual salary, for them to execute conversational tasks for 8 hours a day – plus, you’ll need to pay to train them. While chatbots do carry upfront costs (especially if you’re building a chatbot from scratch), they easily pay for themselves since they function automatically, 24/7.
- Availability. The availability factor is another consideration. Human beings get tired. They get hungry. They get emotionally exhausted. But this isn’t so with chatbots. True, you can compensate for human limitations by keeping people on rotating shifts, but there’s no true substitute for the 24/7 coverage that chatbots can provide.
- Range of service. When it comes to range of service, human beings are real contenders. Modern chatbots can be trained to cover a wide range of topics and help customers with a wide range of issues – but it all needs to be programmed and it all needs to be predictable. Human beings are still much better at handling unexpected situations and improvising; the artificial intelligence (AI) that dictates chatbot behavior isn’t general enough to support this.
- Range of emotion. The emotionlessness of chatbots can be an advantage; they never become frustrated, offended, or impatient. However, many people want genuine compassion or empathy when they’re engaging with an agent – especially in certain applications. For now, human beings are better at expressing emotion and giving people a genuine, “human” experience.
- Training and preparation. We also need to consider the training and preparation required to get a human being or chatbot up to speed. To prepare a human for a role in customer service, sales, or a similar area, you’ll likely need to spend a few days, or even a few weeks training them. Programming a chatbot can take even longer, especially if you’re designing one from scratch; but with the chatbot, you’ll never have to worry about turnover or retraining new people. Additionally, you may have to train an entire team of human beings, but you’ll only have to train one chatbot.
- Communication skill. Communication skill is often at the heart of this debate. Are chatbots capable of understanding what their conversational partners are saying? Can they respond articulately and completely? The short answer is yes. As we’ll see, modern chatbots are incredibly semantically advanced.
- Consumer preference. Currently, consumers overwhelmingly prefer speaking to a human over a chatbot. While consumers do prefer self-service most of the time, most people don’t like the idea of trying to express their thoughts and concerns to a robot. For this reason, human beings are still better – and will likely keep this advantage for the foreseeable future.
- Secondary benefits. There are secondary benefits to both human beings and chatbots. For example, human beings can learn from their conversations with customers and provide qualitative feedback you can use to improve your business. But with chatbots, it’s very simple to gather data directly from conversations, and analyze those data to form objective conclusions about your business’s position.
The Turing Test and Eugene Goostman
For many consumers, the true test of whether a chatbot is better than a human being is whether it’s at least indistinguishable from a human. In other words, are its linguistic capabilities strong enough that they could be mistaken for an actual human?
This is, essentially, the Turing test – a test of a machine’s ability to demonstrate intelligent behavior, devised by Alan Turing in 1950. A machine is said to “pass” the test if humans consistently struggle to distinguish between a real human and a sufficiently competent machine.
Chatbots have been capable of passing the Turing test as early as 2001, when the chatbot known as Eugene Goostman was developed. The Goostman bot emulated a 13-year-old Ukrainian boy, and could carry out simplistic, yet linguistically diverse conversations. Participants were unable to distinguish the bot as being a machine, though there are some limitations to consider here – for example, 13-year-olds aren’t expected to carry out conversations as sophisticated as fully grown adults.
That said, we’ve technically had chatbots that rival human conversational ability for 20 years. Is this enough to qualify them as “better” than human, given their other advantages?
The State of AI-Based Chatbots
The most advanced chatbots of the modern era are robust and highly useful. Microsoft and Google have demonstrated technology capable of understanding human speech on par with human error rates. The latter has also demonstrated a chatbot that can literally make phone calls and make rudimentary small talk when carrying out basic tasks like setting appointments.
Other chatbot platforms showcase their advanced nature with customizability; businesses and individual customers can use the chatbot platform to build the perfect chatbot for their needs, training it and testing it to hone it to perfection.
Exploitability and Visible Weaknesses
There are also some major weaknesses in chatbots that we need to consider. For example, many chatbots have built-in bias from their developers, which prevent them from providing service equally to all your customers.
Other chatbots are programmed to learn from real people; they’re adaptive, and they evolve by studying the speech patterns of others. While this can be a source of major strength, it’s also exploitable. For example, Microsoft’s Tay chatbot functioned similarly when it was released in 2016, and antagonistic trolls were quick to “teach” it how to wield racist and sexually charged language.
Finding a way to preserve advantages without opening exploitable loopholes is a challenge that humans don’t generally have to contend with.
Can Humans Ever Be Replaced?
It’s clear that chatbots are already better than humans in some regards, and they’re not far behind in others. If we hold this true, the big question becomes: can humans ever truly be replaced?
Even if chatbots became so perfect that they were unquestionably better than human conversational counterparts (with no exploitable weaknesses), there would be a portion of the population who always prefers speaking with humans over bots. There’s no guarantee chatbots will ever get to this point, but it remains a realistic possibility.
In short, chatbots are already better than we would have thought possible just 20 years ago. Another 20 years could make chatbots indistinguishable from humans even to the most perceptive conversationalists. But for now, it doesn’t look like humans will ever be completely out of the picture for conversational needs.
How IoT Will Change Everyday Life By 2030? – ReadWrite
With the start of every new decade, one can’t help but wonder what the world will look like at the end of it. If we can skip the major COVID year (can we) what will 2030 be like? Human technological advancement used to take generations if not centuries up until the Renaissance era. Even then, it took several hundred years for the Industrial Revolution to start shaping the world as a precursor to how we know it today.
When assembly lines emerged, better commercial goods could be manufactured faster and more efficiently. This is arguably where modern capitalism really began to take hold.
Since then we have had several more Industrial Revolutions, such as the use of robotics, automation, computers, and the internet. Each of these technologies has not just revolutionized industrial manufacturing but has incrementally affected our way of life.
It is no accident that complex consumer products like automobiles, home electronics, and gadgets continue to not only get cheaper but also safer. And with the Digital Age, the incremental impact technology has had on everyday life has increased in both frequency and effect.
How IoT May Transform the World By 2030?
IoT technology, despite the security challenges that accompany it, promises to be the next great catalytic force. The concept of IoT has evolved far beyond the drawing board and is already seeing widespread application across a range of industries as well as everyday activities. From farming to manufacturing to local law and order, there seems to be no shortage of IoT possibilities.
The concept of a “smart home” is no longer a far-fetched idea, but well within the realm of possibility given advancements in voice-controlled virtual assistants and IoT networks. This blog will try to paint a picture of what life in 2030 could look like while attempting to remain grounded on the present-day trajectories the technology is taking. Read on to find out more about specific aspects of everyday life we can expect to change by the end of this decade, including:
1. Smarter Homes and Offices
2. Smarter and More Efficient Cities
3. Improved Manufacturing on an Industrial Scale
4. Safer, Smarter, and Better Automobiles
Let’s examine what the future could look like based on the direction IoT tech is taking at the time of this blog. However, before we begin, there is one important disclaimer. Please note that these are not predictions or guaranteed changes. They are at best cautious extrapolations but based as close to current tech as possible to avoid big leaps of faith. Let’s begin.
Smarter Homes and Offices
The more successful certain technology is, the more impactful it will be in the more obvious areas of your life. Take the internet itself. When it first emerged, it was almost a novelty. Most people didn’t think it would go on to transform the everyday consumer’s life the way it has.
But by 2020, we have seen massive investment in infrastructure as well as advancements in residential and commercial internet tech. This has put providers like Charter in a position to offer internet services to the vast majority of the US. Today, the internet pervades nearly every aspect of our lives, from work to entertainment to study to social interactions. In other words, the changes are apparent in two very obvious areas in our lives: at home and at the office.
IoT in The Workplace
The same principle can, in theory, apply to IoT. IoT devices are already appearing in homes and offices. Sensors already control things like security doors, attendance registers, fire alarms, sprinklers, and even heating and lighting in offices. Other devices like security cameras, motion detectors, and HVAC systems also depend on sensors in the current day.
How difficult could it really be to transition all the sensors and devices in an office building into a central network? At least from a layman’s perspective, it doesn’t seem like a big leap. Sounds too outlandishly futuristic for you? Cisco, a world leader in networking technology, already offers smart building solutions revolving around:
- Prioritizing building security.
- Offering better customer interactions.
- Supplementing occupant health and safety.
- Seamlessly improve building efficiency.
The smart office of 2030 will revolve around these principles. While we can’t speak for architectural design in 2030, we can certainly bank on office buildings or workplaces being safer, healthier, more efficient, and much more secure.
Efficient Smart Homes
The future smart home follows more or less the same principle. However, smart home IoT technology currently significant faces compatibility problems, mostly since different devices communicate in different languages determined by their manufacturer.
So while your Google Assistant may be able to control devices operating over Wi-Fi, it may not be able to do the same for devices that communicate in ZigBee, Bluetooth, or Z-Wave.
All of these languages being used for various devices makes the language barrier an obstacle in terms of how quickly smart homes can become the norm, instead of the exception. But given that much of this technology is very new, and currently does not have a definitive set of industry standards or regulations, this is to be expected.
As industries begin to capitalize on a market with no clear leaders, various governments will inevitably come up with regulations and standards. This, in turn, will usually improve device compatibility and integration in the average smart home. In any case, smart homes will follow similar principles as smart workplaces, including:
- Improved home security.
- Better in-home experience.
- Optimizing health and safety.
- Improved energy consumption and efficiency.
Smarter and More Efficient Cities
It is generally accepted (or even expected) that smart homes and smart workplaces will dominate the landscape by 2030. By that rationale, limiting the impact of IoT just to these two places seems a bit shortsighted. Urban areas such as large city centers and towns are usually densely populated.
That means they will most likely have a large number of offices and homes. If offices and homes can become smarter through IoT, the same concept can be applied on a more macro scale. In other words, IoT can usher in the age of the smart city.
IoT Applications in Cities
Consider any modern developed city in the US today. Local governments today have several responsibilities, including law and order, traffic regulation, waste management, energy supplies, pollution control, and much more. Many cities already use technology in strategic areas to help make these responsibilities more manageable.
Take traffic cameras for example. These can monitor traffic all over the city, and many can even identify traffic violations and issue fines autonomously.
Law enforcement can also use these cameras (along with others) to be more proactive in preventing criminal activities. Traffic management also becomes much easier, making life a bit simpler for citizens trying to commute to and from work.
Governments such as those in Hong Kong and China actually use advanced facial recognition tech in addition to sensors around cities to actively monitor citizens (although that seems a bit too Orwellian for most people’s tastes). Regardless, a smart city is not as far in the future as it was at the start of the last decade.
Smart Cities of the Future
But what will a smart city look like in 2030? Let’s take three present-day examples of local governments using IoT as a baseline. Barcelona uses IoT tech to improve parking availability. This helped by heavily reducing both fossil fuel emissions as well as traffic congestion.
Ultimately, traffic saw improved movement in busy parts of the city. Tel Aviv, Israel uses IoT to manage the use of its reserved fast lanes in busy areas. This helps with easing traffic jams and gridlocks for the entire city. It also earns the city revenue in terms of fines on violations.
San Diego, California was one of the first urban hubs to begin using IoT to reduce the city’s energy costs, namely by using smart-LED lampposts. These posts only light up when traffic or pedestrians are nearby, saving the city hundreds of thousands in public energy costs.
A smart city by the end of 2030 will probably incorporate all of these aspects. Almost certainly, they will add new ones too. In any case, we should expect smart cities by 2030 to at least offer:
- Dramatically reduced street crime rates.
- Smooth traffic flow with minimal blocks or congestion.
- Improved waste management capabilities at lowered costs.
- Significantly smaller energy consumption footprints.
- Improved city life in terms of healthcare and essential services.
- Sustainable living with smarter management of clean energy and water.
Obviously, the scale to which IoT spreads in a city will depend heavily on that city’s government. Remember, strong democracies empower local governments to deliver visible and long-lasting results in their constituencies. But the decision to adopt new technologies will ultimately depend on elected officials instead of bureaucrats.
Improved Manufacturing on an Industrial Scale
True revolutionary technologies don’t just change our everyday lives. They also have a significant transformational impact on existing processes that deliver everyday consumer goods. In other words, IoT won’t just result in an improved standard of living. It will also cause an improvement in the industrial processes that create consumer goods to improve our standard of living.
The manufacturing industry, in particular, stands to benefit the most from adopting IoT. The technology has promising applications for strategic use on the assembly line and other key processes. In fact, some of the biggest names in large-scale manufacturing have already started to board the IoT bandwagon. This is paving the way for others to follow suit.
IoT in Automotive Manufacturing
The parallel use of automation and robotics is not new to manufacturing, particularly in the automotive industry. When making complex products like the modern-day automobile, vehicle manufacturers rely on the synergy offered by machines and humans. Many automotive assembly lines are a hybrid of human workers as well as purpose-built automated machines.
All working towards a shared goal: a complete automobile rolling off the line. This speeds up the manufacturing/assembly process considerably. At the same time, it ensures consistently high quality (in keeping with stricter consumer protection laws). Now consider industries that have introduced IoT technology into the mix.
Harley-Davidson and IoT-Supported Processes
Harley-Davidson is an almost permanent part of American culture. It has done an excellent job of encapsulating the free-spiritedness and individualism of the country. All in a beautiful piece of machinery that is an icon of our culture. Up until recently, the company’s York-based motorcycle plant followed the same 1970s-style assembly operation it had for years.
But with a high-tech manufacturing systems update, courtesy of Cisco, the plant has transformed immensely. Using a network of sensors at specific points on the assembly line operation, Harley-Davidson has stepped up. It can now pinpoint and remove bottlenecks as soon as they arise.
The Cisco plant has even restructured certain operations to navigate around persistent obstacles and bottlenecks. The bottom line result? The plant can now roll out 1 model out of its 1,700 variations every 6 hours. The previous timeline was 21 days from the date of order.
Automobile Manufacturers of Tomorrow
What does this tell us about the future of industrial manufacturing by 2030? We can only extrapolate since nobody can speak for sure. But since most manufacturers are hell-bent on minimizing production costs, we can reasonably hope to see:
- Dramatic improvements in manufacturing processes and production capacities.
- Restructuring of assembly lines to create better products in less time.
- Easy identification and removal of manufacturing roadblocks and bottlenecks.
- Cheaper and better-quality products as a direct result of improved production processes.
Safer, Smarter, and Better Automobiles
The automobile is without doubt one of humankind’s greatest achievements. Henry Ford can safely be credited with developing the world’s first assembly line. This propelled automobiles from expensive novelty to a much cheaper and viable product. Over the years, the automobile industry has seen many entries and exits. Some of the early movers like Mercedes and BMW are still leading manufacturers today. Others like Lagonda and BRM couldn’t adapt to the increasing complexity and varying global demand.
Tesla offers several examples of electric vehicles that have proven to be commercially viable. It is also exactly the kind of technology needed to drive down road emissions to near-zero levels over the coming years. And that’s just one purpose for manufacturing these vehicles.
The Problem With Conventional Vehicles
Conventional automobiles run on fossil fuels. Who doesn’t love the roar of a V8 or V10 engine revving up to the redline! Generations have been captivated by the thrill and speed performance vehicles offer, as well as the exciting driving experience. But the environmental impact they have in terms of carbon emissions is a big problem. There is also the fact that road accidents are the single biggest cause of global fatalities as per the WHO. It is obvious that even many current automobiles are far from perfect.
Over the decades since Ford’s Model T, automobiles have continued to get safer and more fuel-efficient. But they haven’t been able to make transformational headway in terms of road safety and carbon emissions. That is, of course, until present-day electric vehicles arrived on the scene.
Electric vehicles had the reputation of being unreliable, short-ranged, and difficult to maintain. In other words, they were considered less viable than those powered by internal-combustion engines. However, as the fossil fuel crisis grew rapidly over recent years, manufacturers correctly anticipated the need to shift to sustainable alternatives.
Improved Road and Passenger Safety
Thanks to the vast range of sensors as well as computers with the ability to learn and adapt, things are changing quickly. We are seeing vehicles that should belong in science fiction books. From autopilot modes to automatic braking to obstacle radars, they have it all.
The modern vehicle isn’t just environment friendly, but much safer and more reliable. Modern sensors can accomplish a range of feats, from identifying when a driver is asleep to alerting occupants if the car is drifting off the lane to even detecting potential collisions before they occur. This is a direct impact of the use of IoT in modern vehicles, and it promises to only go upwards.
The E-Vehicles Of The Near Future
Automotive tech and IoT continue to advance at a fast pace. We wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect vehicles by the end of 2030 to have:
- True autonomous driving without requiring a human’s input.
- Improved vehicle capabilities with IoT transmitting performance data to manufacturers.
- Wireless performance and safety upgrades that can be “downloaded” to the vehicle.
- Sophisticated road safety systems that minimize the risks of collisions, injuries, and fatalities.
IoT continues to make its presence felt across our lives. We can reasonably hope for major changes in the coming years. The technology may well have a transformative effect similar to the internet or AI in everyday use.
Image Credit: mali maeder; pexels; thank you!
7 Tech Tools Make Winter Bearable and Improve Health – ReadWrite
Winter typically means more time spent indoors, and it’s common to lose sight of health and wellness goals as the chilly season drags on. Finding the motivation to stay healthy can be easier when you have measurable data you can use to assess your progress (or the lack of it).
We all want to see the backend of 2020. Get healthy in 2021 — shed the COVID-TEN, beef-up your fitness, and shred the COVID-bad-luck by monitoring your progress with these 7 tech tools.
As the trend toward smaller, wearable tech continues to gain momentum, developers are finding some interesting ways to combine biodata with helpful interfaces. With so many new devices and apps being released it can be a challenge to sift the winners from the so-so. Here are seven tech-enabled fitness devices that deserve your attention.
1. Wim Hof Method Mobile App
It seems as though Dutch extreme athlete Wim “The Iceman” Hof is everywhere these days. For many years, however, the Wim Hof Method of breathing exercises was regarded as something of a curiosity or physiological outlier.
Hof’s approach is fairly simple and rests on three pillars: breathing, cold therapy, and commitment. The Wim Hof Method Mobile App provides a great portal into Hof’s methods, helps you stay healthy and stick-it to winter gloom.
As an added bonus during these pandemic times, there is evidence to suggest that practicing the Wim Hof Method provides a boost to your immune system. Not only that, Hof’s method can increase your ability to control certain autonomic functions. The exercises are simple but require staying engaged and committed.
When you’re feeling tense or anxious, it can be difficult just to sit down for a few minutes and relax, let alone meditate. And who isn’t feeling at least a little bit of tension these days? Find relief with Sensate, which helps you modulate your body’s stress response and boosts your overall well-being.
A stone-like device that rests on the user’s chest, Sensate is paired with an app that offers relaxation sessions of varying lengths. The device uses infrasonic bone conduction technology in conjunction with sound to calm the nervous system by stimulating the vagus nerve. By stimulating and then calming the nerve, Sensate brings together ancient meditation practices and modern technology. The combination is surprisingly effective and easy to use; you’ll feel the calming-influence-benefits as soon as you power it up.
The HeartMath Inner Balance trainer has been around for years but has been refined and improved over time. HeartMath has done a great job at promoting a broader understanding of heart rate variability (HRV) as a metric for measuring both stress and emotional resilience. The HeartMath Institute Research Facility in California was established to further support expanding research on the subject.
The HeartMath product itself is a wearable earclip device that connects to a companion app. It uses an integrated biofeedback loop to help individuals improve their HRV score through practice. Studies show that watching your HRV can improve focus and sleep and reduce fatigue and anxiety.
4. Oura Ring
Oura Ring is another device that relies on HRV as a measure of user well-being. Oura has somehow managed to combine biometric monitoring with an attractive, always-on ring. The device is both workable and wearable, making it much loved by the biohacking community.
The Oura Ring tracks three different scores — readiness, sleep, and activity — to help you develop healthier habits and perform at your best. Measures of sleep quality and duration help you create your optimal bedtime. Movement goals and tracking enable you to strike a healthy balance of physical activity and rest. Waking up to a “readiness score” lets you know how prepared your body is to take on the day.
5. Vagus Watch
Designed in Finland, the Vagus Watch is an innovative product developed for ECG health monitoring. Used before, during, and after breathing training, the device uses cross-chest ECG neurofeedback to provide accurate readings for HRV and vagal tone.
Regular monitoring allows you to improve your training sessions, supports a greater sense of well-being, and builds up your immunity. Just the thing for staying healthy during these cold winter months! (The watch looks nice, too, even though it doesn’t tell time.)
6. Breethe: Meditation and Sleep
The number of breathing devices and apps flooding the market is a response to a heightened awareness that proper breathing is critical for good physical and mental health. One favorite is the Breethe app, which offers users dozens of meditation sessions, bedtime stories, and even hypnotherapy sessions.
Developed by yoga instructor Lynne Goldberg as she was learning to cope with the loss of multiple family members, Breethe is designed to introduce the practice and benefits of meditation to anyone and everyone. The free version of Breethe provides more content than most similar apps and offers shorter sessions for those who have three minutes or less to chill out.
7. Kokoon NightBuds
This product is brought to you by the clever people at Kokoon, who have developed earbuds with built-in sensors to monitor sleep quality and enable personalized sleep coaching. Their noise-canceling capabilities will ensure nothing disturbs your slumber.
Kokoon NightBuds are smaller than normal earbuds and boast intelligent audio to “transform your sleep and relaxation naturally through audio.” Currently, there is an opportunity to order Kokoon NightBuds at a substantial discount through Kickstarter.
Kick Out the Dull — and Bound into Your New-Health-Mode
It’s no wonder so many new health-monitoring apps and services are hitting the market right now. 2020 did a number on all of us, to varying degrees. If you’re starting 2021 feeling like several of your health goals need revisiting in the wake of the pandemic, you’re not alone. This is a great time to think about adding measurable data to your overall health and fitness regimen, and any one of these new products might be just what the doctor ordered.
Image Credit: mikhail nilov; pexels; thank you!