3 Trends Shaping The Economy Of Switching Off

3 Trends Shaping The Economy Of Switching Off – StrategyEye StrategyEye

3 Trends Shaping The Economy Of Switching Off

The fast pace of the modern life where consumers are now always connected to the world around them, often leads many to feel the need to occasionally switch off. With so called ‘digital detoxing’ growing in popularity, switching off is one need many tech companies are trying to meet with apps that can helps users meditate or finally get a good night’s sleep. Of course, technology is part of the problem particularly with smartphones and their frequent notifications, but this too is being tackled partly through wearable devices such as the Apple Watch and smaller companies like Ringly and Kovert Designs. Here are some of the key trends defining the economy of switching off.

We’ll be exploring this among other topics at our ‘The Future Of Health’ event on October 28 Wednesday in East London. We’ll hear keynote presentations from industry leaders, including DigitalStich, as well as pitches from trendsetting startups, followed by networking with drinks and pizza. Tickets are limited so secure yours fast!  


1. Meditation

Innovation such as smartphones and expanding cloud services mean that while businesses can operate from anywhere 24 hours a day, work can become exhausting for those caught up in it. More startups are helping users find time to relax among busy schedules. While the idea of a meditation app might seem to go against the spirit of meditation in the first place, it is nonetheless proving an attractive proposition for investors. One of the biggest wins for the sector comes in the recent USD30m round for California-based meditation and mindfulness startup, Headspace. Headspace offers a package of meditation tools, including functions like audio meditation guides and push notifications which periodically reassure users with phrases like: “Is a problem still a problem if you don’t think it’s a problem?” The app claims more than 3m users in more than 150 companies.

Ironically for a sector designed to calm users down, the meditation space isn’t free of competitors – among other firms working in the sector are Calm, which provides ambient noise such as rainfall and blowing winds to aid relaxation. It’s now raised USD1m to date, most recently a USD580,000 round last year. Another, more recent entry into the space is Germany’s 7mind which, whilst yet to pick up any significant funding, claims 55,000 users and aims to surpass 300,000 users by March 2016. 7mind currently operates on a freemium model and is looking to launch a subscription model soon.

In addition to these meditation and mindfulness-focused startups, there are also a wealth of startups catering to the religious aspects of meditation, such as Buddha Quotes, which sends users mindful quotations from Buddhist scripture, as well as the popular GBP3.99 (USD6.12) Buddhify app, which combines religious insight with the timed meditation sessions offered by apps such as Headspace and Calm.

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2. Wearables

Smartwatches may not help users switch off from notifications, but glancing at a watch is quicker and easier than a smartphone and allows users to get essential information without fishing their phones out of their pockets. Smartwatches aren’t the only type of wearable device out there and many companies are experimenting with radically different designs.

New York-based Ringly is one such startup. It makes rings that change colour and vibrate based on the type of notification. The rings aren’t cheap, with prices starting at USD195 and each shows five colours and has four vibration patterns. In January it raised a USD5.1m round with Andreessen Horowitz, First Round Capital and Social Capital among its backers.

Kovert Designs is taking a similar approach, except alongside rings it also makes necklaces and bracelets. Unlike with Ringly the device itself is in the stone, which vibrates when a user gets a message from selected contacts. The aim is to only remind users of vital notifications rather than overloading them with updates, on a device users won’t mind wearing.

“If you want me to wear it, make it pretty – these are not the types of products these people have been used to building, we’re not just talking about a gadget,” says CEO Kate Unsworth. “You’re asking me to wear it. Make it beautiful and make it useful and then let’s talk.”

Whether or not Ringly or Kovert Designs succeeds is less important than how they demonstrate the potential for radically different wearables as companies work out how to make notifications less intrusive. However, there is always the possibility that smartwatches will simply take over this category as many manufacturers are putting a lot of effort to make them look good with Apple recently partnering with fashion brand Hermes. Smartwatches also have the advantage of having actual screens, a far more versatile way of showing notifications than changing colour.


3. Sleep

Sleep is one of the most important aspects of people’s lives, but lives are becoming busier, more distracted, less tied to natural sleep cycles and in short, more exhausting than ever before. Coming to the rescue are a whole host of apps and devices which aim to help users make the most of those all-important six-and-a-half hours of daily recharging.

For those who struggle with insomnia and restless nights is Sleepio is the flagship product of UK health tech company Big Health, which has scored USD3.3m in funding to date. Sleepio works through cognitive behavioural therapy techniques aiming to counsel users into getting a better night’s rest. The company claim to help people fall asleep on average 54% faster and reducing night-time awakenings by 62%. But where some people find getting to sleep difficult, many others find waking up and getting out of bed in the morning a considerably more irksome challenge. SleepCycle promises to remedy this through its innovative intelligent alarm clock system. Part of the reason getting up in the morning is so disagreeable is that the body rests in particular circadian rhythms, alternating between deep and light sleep. A phone on which the SleepCycle app is installed sits next to a user in bed and uses biometric analysis to detect when the user is at the lightest point in their sleep cycle, waking them at this point.

In addition to these, there are plenty of other firms attempting to transform the way people sleep through their technology. China’s Sleepace picked up USD7m in funding in July for its wearable device, which monitors how a user sleeps, then provides data on things like sleeping heart rate and breathing dynamics and how to change these in order to improve users’ sleep. Finland’s Beddit also raised USD8m for a similar service last year, although its technology is embedded in the bed itself.

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