By James Donck, Prifina
In today's rapidly evolving technology landscape, the great outdoors isn't left behind. It's fascinating how tiny, cost-effective sensors are revolutionizing outdoor gear – from backpacks and hiking boots to tents and sleeping bags. These innovations are enhancing safety, comfort, and connectivity for outdoor enthusiasts, ushering in a new era of smart adventuring.
Let’s explore some of the ways sensors are augmenting outdoor gear and the opportunities this presents for outdoor brands to deliver more value to their customers.
Smart Backpacks: A Game Changer in Load Management
Weight distribution is crucial for comfort when carrying a backpack over long distances. By embedding load cells and pressure sensors at multiple points along the shoulder straps and back panel, backpacks can now detect weight and shifts in load.
The data can provide hikers with real-time feedback when packing their bags and adjustments needed on the trail. Brands like Osprey Backpacks integrate such technologies in high-end backpacks to analyze how the bag carries weight; as a result, such new technologies can help prevent back or shoulder strain.
There’s potential to connect load data with GPS coordinates to correlate terrain changes with weight shifts. By linking load data to a mobile app, backpackers can receive tailored advice for rest stops or repacking based on their personal profiles.
Next-Gen Hiking Boots: Your Personal Trail Analyst
Injury prevention is critical for serious hikers and thru-hikers. Sensors integrated into hiking boots and insoles can unobtrusively perform gait analysis to detect imbalances or irregular walking patterns.
A variety of sensors, such as pressure sensors, accelerometers, and gyroscopes, enable products from companies like Digitsole and Underfoot Athletics to provide insights into aspects like weight distribution across the feet, the impact of varied terrains, the development of micro-fractures, and overall fatigue levels during a hike.
When sensor data is made actionable through mobile alerts and post-hike analysis, it allows hikers to optimize insoles, adjust techniques, take timely breaks, and aid recovery. This helps prevent painful, activity-limiting injuries in the wilderness. Brands that tap into sensor-enabled hiking shoes and boots have the opportunity to build customer trust and loyalty.
The Rise of Smart Tents: More Than Just Shelter
Pitching tents in unpredictable outdoor conditions presents challenges regarding comfort and safety. Environmental sensors, such as occupancy, motion, light, pressure, and temperature sensors, embedded in tents can help address many of these issues.
Occupancy sensors enable automatic adjustments to lighting, heating, ventilation, etc., based on tent usage patterns. Passive infrared (PIR) motion sensors serve as security systems, sending alerts when unexpected motion is detected around the tents.
Smart Wool, an outdoor apparel brand, already offers a smart tent equipped with occupancy, temperature, and light sensors. These sensors allow for the automatic opening and closing of windows, turning interior lighting on or off, and even automatically starting a morning coffee maker!
Location-tracking sensors in tents are also highly valuable, assisting campers in finding their way back after a day's adventures. As consumer IoT continues to gain traction, purpose-built shelters are increasingly becoming equipped to keep outdoor enthusiasts secure and comfortable.
Personalization: The Frontier of Outdoor Gear
Sensors integrated into backpacks, footwear, and shelters provide invaluable usage data, and combining this with biometric inputs measured via smartwatches or fitness trackers offers more personalized experiences.
Here are some compelling use cases:
Optimizing Gear Settings with Health Correlations
Rather than relying on generic occupancy thresholds for HVAC adjustments in smart tents, your body temperature, captured by your fitness band, can trigger highly customized heating or cooling tailored to your specific needs and comfort levels.
Analyzing gait abnormalities from hiking boot sensors, along with stress and fatigue levels from your watch, can determine whether terrain changes or physiological exhaustion are causing these anomalies. This enables selective course corrections.
Implementing such closed-loop systems requires ecosystem integration, but the value generated for users is immense.
Location History Enhances Safety Features
Your smart backpack, knowing that taking the northern trail in Yosemite previously elevated your heart rate due to stress, now can use this data, synced from your Apple Watch, for real-time guidance. It can automatically suggest less intense routes and rest stops by cross-referencing sensor data with your physiological history and biome profiles.
Similarly, a history of respiratory issues or heart conditions can provide context for any irregularities in vitals detected via wearables while on remote trails. This could automatically activate emergency contacts or guide first responders more quickly, potentially saving lives.
Fueling Discovery with User-Specific Insights
Analyzing multi-parameter data history across gear sensors and wearables enables ultra-personalized recommendations for outdoor activities suited to your biomechanical and physiological traits.
Platforms like OutdoorVoices already provide assessments that match user profiles with ideal outdoor activities. In the future, expect detailed sensor data streams to offer inputs for highly customized assessments on a larger scale.
Privacy and Consent: The Backbone of Smart Gear
While the depth of insights unlockable via sensor and wearables fusion is undoubtedly powerful, users must trust brands with personal data access. Consent flows and privacy-preserving data handling is thus mandatory before orchestrating multiple data streams seamlessly.
Looking Ahead: The Boundless Potential of Sensor-Integrated Gear
The future looks bright for sensor technology in outdoor gear. Humidity sensors in backpacks could prevent mold, while smart sleeping bags might adjust insulation based on the occupant's needs. As these technologies become more affordable, brands have a unique opportunity to create extraordinary experiences for their customers, deepening connections and distinguishing themselves in a competitive market.
In a world where smartphones have replaced maps, cameras, and flashlights, it’s not a stretch to envision a future where outdoor gear is equally smart. The question for brands now is whether to lead this revolution or play catch-up. The future of outdoor adventuring is smart – and it's already here.
“Whoever wins the personal agent, that’s [going to be] the big thing. Because you will never go to a search site again, you’ll never go to Amazon again” - Bill Gates
By dr. Paul Jurcys
In the very near future, each of us will our personal AI assistants for every aspect of our lives. Each of us will have our personal AI doctor, personal AI coach, personal AI nutritionist, or digital assistant that will help us organize our calendars, schedule events, and purchase items on our behalf.
Such AI-powered assistants will augment our abilities and help get rid of time-consuming tasks, and focus on things that matter most.
Buzz In the Market
In the past few months, there has been quite a bit of excitement about the possibility of building truly personal AI:
A massive investment in InflectionAI could be seen as an attempt to stave off any potential competition and secure dominance in this rapidly emerging domain.
Shortage of Experts
Today, we are unfortunately facing a remarkable shortage of experts. With over 8 billion people on Earth, there are a mere 10 million doctors. Teachers struggle to spend enough time on direct interactions with every student in the class.
On a personal level, we often lack someone equally knowledgeable or passionate about our favorite topics. In times of grief, suffering, and emotional pain, the desire for a close companion to provide advice and understanding becomes ever more acute.
This is where the transformative power of AI comes in. In the near future, countless individuals, potentially everyone, will be able to augment their personal capabilities with our own personal AI assistants.
The trajectory toward universal access to intelligence is clearly mapped out: we can expect that any person with access to the internet and a hand-held device will have access to the same expert advice from a doctor, an educator, or any other specialist, all through their personal AI.
2 Ways to Build Personal AI
As technology continues to leap forward at ever-increasing speed, personal AI assistants are evolving to become more sophisticated and versatile.
There are two paths of bringing AI superpowers to humans:
A top-down approach: after the release of ChatGPT and other generative AI tools, we are witnessing an influx of various personal AI assistants that are supposed to hello us find information, summarize text, or generate images.
The top-down approach is rooted in creating software applications - personal AI assistants - that are marketed as tools to help us solve various daily tasks and assignments or offer us a companion, a buddy that is available 24/7. Think of InflectionAI’s Pi, Midjourney, Dalle, and countless others.
However, most of our essential tasks are rooted in the physical world: we need to eat, sleep, and and go to the bathroom. As cheap sensors are being integrated in our wearable devices and environments around us, individuals have tools and ability to track personal biological clock - we start living quantified lives. If you are a runner, you probably have a fitness tracker to measure your running distance and heart rate, as well as recovery rate. Also, our cars track hundreds of data points (e.g., acceleration, braking, engine performance, and outside factors).
Scientists around the world are building assistive robots to help us to recover from injuries or learn important skills.
These sensor-derived data sets also lead to the development of AI-powered applications that help optimize different aspects of our lives. This sensor-data-AI path resembles a bottom-up approach to building personal AI.
Data Eats the World, But How to Access Data?
AI assistants such as ChatGPT, or PI, are amazing in answering our general questions and performing general tasks. However, if you ask anything personal, something related to yourself, they stumble. Let’s see what responses we get to the question “How did I sleep last night?”:
How come!? Isn’t it odd that if you wear Apple watches that track our activity, sleep and process various biometric data, Siri - an AI assistant built by Apple for Apple’s products - is not able to answer such a simple question?!
Eventually, every company building personal AI will face the challenge of connecting the personal AI to the user’s own data.
To build a truly personal AI, we need not only general knowledge from publicly available sources and research repositories, we also need to bring this general, publicly available knowledge and correlate it with the specific data of each individual. In other words, to build a truly personal AI, Ai assistant must be able to access to the user’s personal data. Otherwise, the AI assistant will be a generalist, not a personal:
This is where Prifina’s human-centric approach to data comes into play: with Prifina’s user-held data model, it is possible to bring those personal AI assistants to each individual and run those personal AI assistants “on top of” each user’s own data, privately.
In Prifina’s personal data ecosystem, each individual user connects their data from personal data sources to their own data “vault”, where data is collected and unified. AI-powered apps and assistants run in each individual users’ data environment. Each individual user’s data is private by default.
A human-centric approach to data opens vast opportunities for the use of personal data: not only personal AI assistants can answer the question about last night’s sleep, but ML and LLMs can offer new possibilities for personalization and automation of tasks and generate new value for individuals.
So how many personal AI assistants can there be? And how many AI assistants can one person handle?
As humans, we have limited time and a limited attention span. Our guess is that each of us will be really interacting with 5, 7 or 10 digital agents (similar to a manager at a corporation who has 7-10 directly responding employees).
The image below illustrates the universe of digital assistants in the human-centric environment:
These digital agents will also vary in their expertise, capabilities, and proximity to the individual human being. It is likely, that people will have their own AI doctors, AI coaches, and AI-powered shopping assistants who will help to achieve specialized tasks.
Some of them will operate in the “inner orbit” - on top of the user’s own data, privately, while other AI assistants will be generalists, and will not have access to user’s own data.
In this multi-agent environment, one possible scenario is that each individual will have one primary and preferred assistant - we can call it “my personal AI.” But how will those digital agents and assistants interact with one another? What technological infrastructure is needed to make them talk to one another?
Assume you feel unwell and suffer from an upset stomach, which personal AI assistant do you go first? You might go to your “own private AI” and ask “Why do I feel pain in my stomach”? Your own personal AI may refer you to your personal AI doctor.
In this kind of scenario, it will be important to make sure that the initial inquiry made by you to your own personal AI is automatically transmitted to other agents. This will ensure that your AI doctor will already know your concern and will be able to continue the conversation.
Such communication between AI-powered agents can only be possible in the human-centric data environment, where all the AI experts run on the user’s side. Sharing sensitive data outside of the user’s own personal data environment is not optimal. In fact, such communication between agents would be impossible in the old, enterprise-centric data ecosystem where data is locked in separate silos.
As we stand on the entrance gates to the age of AI, the future seems quite exciting: how will our lives change when each of us will be able to tap into the potential of our Personal AI? The integration of Personal AI agents into our daily lives is not a question of if, but when and how.
To bring this vision into reality, a shift in thinking is required. We need to embrace a human-centric data paradigm where our Private AI is operating on our side, on our own data, privately.
At Prifina we are building an infrastructure to empower each individual with such “steamengines of the mind”; we want to empower developers to build Personal AI applications for people to augment each individual’s creative potential. Join us!
In the heart of Bern, Switzerland, an innovation and future conference - The 2291 Festival - recently provided a platform for Prifina to showcase its remarkable progress in collaboration with its Swiss partner companies. This event brought together visionaries, industry leaders, and venture capital firms, highlighting the transformative potential in the areas of sensors, personal data and AI.
Prifina, along with Heierling, known for their high-end ski boots and equipment, took center stage at the event. We unveiled next-generation of ski boots and helmets that collect skiing data and seamlessly integrate it into their personal data cloud provided by Prifina. Users can then access applications that leverage this data, such as an AI ski coach, providing personalized insights and recommendations.
Markus Lampinen and Jouko Ahvenainen took the stage to deliver thought-provoking talks during the event. Their focus centered on the fundamental question of personal data ownership and control, emphasizing that it is not only about owning the data but also enabling ordinary individuals to access applications built on their personal data.
“Empowerment with personal data is crucial for individuals to lead healthier and more fulfilling lives.” - Jouko Ahvenainen
Prifina's current primary focus revolves around leveraging data and applications to enhance people's well-being based on health and wearable data. By harnessing the power of personal data, Prifina aims to provide individuals with the tools they need to lead healthier lifestyles and make informed decisions about their well-being.
Throughout the event, there were compelling discussions on the role of innovation in improving the lives of people. It was acknowledged that while technological advancements have the potential to revolutionize various aspects of our lives, there are also concerns about how companies and governments may misuse personal data for control. In this context, the consensus was that giving individuals better control over their personal data can empower them to lead better, healthier lives.
Switzerland, known for its commitment to individual freedom and empowerment, has always held personal data control in high regard. The Swiss people recognize the importance of safeguarding personal data and ensuring that individuals retain the rights to make decisions regarding their own information. It is this shared belief that has facilitated a fruitful collaboration between Prifina, Heierling and Code Fabric, as they work together to redefine personal data ownership and control.
Prifina’s collaborations with Swiss companies shows the immense potential with user-generated personal data. By combining our expertise in technology, skiing equipment, and personal data management, we are pushing the boundaries of what is possible. This represents a unique opportunity for other consumer brands seeking innovative approaches to their product offering that have a positive impact on people's lives.
Our general takeaway is that the future with user-generated personal data looks promising. Our vision of empowering individuals through personal data control resonates strongly with the Swiss people and the global community at large.
Stay tuned for more updates as Prifina strives to revolutionize the way we experience sports and personal data, ultimately enhancing our lives in ways we never thought possible.
On May 3rd, 2023, the Prifina team with its co-organizers at New York Life, hosted a panel on how AI-driven innovation and advances will impact consumer experiences. The event was sold out and we thank all attendees who braved the spontaneous rain in San Francisco to join in person.
We’re grateful for such lively audience participation and brilliant questions for our panel, which included Mickey McManus, BCG, Malavica Sridhar, Founder, Northstarre, Markus Lampinen, Co-Founder and CEO, Prifina and moderator Amber Wang, Women in AI / Cerebral Valley.
The panelists together raised various observations and addressed the trends in the current market:
With such a boom in generative AI, personal data and private use of personal data become fundamentally important. Not only because of privacy concerns but also because of representation; if apps and services are built utilizing individual models that represent the users, we can truly deliver private AI that helps us achieve what we want in life. Like an audience member asked: which human activities should we trust to AI and which should we want to perform ourselves?
Questions like these are at the very heart of the debate, but should it not be our choice as individuals based on our preferences? After all, studies show that outsourcing tasks and chores you do not wish to do increases your overall satisfaction in your life.
Thank you all for the wonderful debate and we cannot wait to see you soon to showcase more of what Personal AI can deliver, privately, to each of us.
By Paul Jurcys
If you could ask your personal AI assistant anything about your personal life what would you ask? What would you like to know about yourself based on your own data?
Based on my current level of restfulness, if I want to have a productive day tomorrow, how should I prepare for it? Based on my data about this week’s exercise records and routines, what improvements can I make to increase my performance next week?
The current ChatGPT boom has spawned many new generative and general intelligence startups utilizing different large language models. These models are trained on public data sources and can answer various questions based on this training data set.
However, they have limitations as it comes to answering more personal questions and with privacy concerns, there are opportunities to build new AI models on personal data frameworks like Prifina’s user-held data model. In this post, we explore how personal applications and “AI” solutions can be realized on a more individualized basis.
Can Everyone Train Their Own AI?
We are at the turning point where the human-centric technology ecosystem becomes real and individuals actually control their own data. Federated cloud architecture and edge computing technologies have now matured to empower individuals with their data.
Prifina’s human-centric data model refers to a data infrastructure that is built around an individual consumer who can collect data from various personal data sources in real-time and have actual ownership and control of such data.
This human-centric approach to personal data is built on the principle that an individual’s personal data should be private by default and not shared with anyone unless the user decides otherwise.
The idea of individuals owning their data is not new. In the early days of the internet, entrepreneurs working at up-and-coming companies thought that user’s data should belong to them.
Being able to access, collect and own your personal data from different sources is the major condition for individuals to train their personal AI.
Prifina's User-Held Data Ecosystem
Prifina’s user-held data platform has two distinct features.
First, each individual user has their personal data cloud where they can collect data from various data sources: personal sensors, wearables such as smart watches, fitness or sleep trackers, and online data sources (e.g., the location from Google Maps, Amazon shopping history, activity while using social media services, apps, etc.).
In Prifina’s ecosystem, each personal data cloud has an embedded software robot that unifies the data regardless of the format it comes to the personal data cloud.
Second, developers and companies can use Prifina’s open-source tools to build new applications that “come to the user” and run locally (i.e., “on top of” user-held data).
Instead of sending data to centralized siloed environments of iOS or Android or any other company providing a sensorized device, individuals in Prifina’s user-held data environment can benefit from full ownership and control: personal data is private by default.
Prifina’s user-held data model opens new opportunities with personal data: developers can easily build apps without having to solve complex data (back-end) problems. Prifina’s approach to personal data frees developers from the hefty burden of complying with data privacy regulations because apps run locally (“on top of” user-held data) and generate value from personal data on the user’s side (instead of being centralized in a service provider’s platform).
Understanding Your Data with Personal AI
If you think about your own personal data - data from your personal fitness trackers, smart watches, personal IoT devices at home, and all apps on your phone - are you actually able to benefit from all the data you have generated over the years?
At Prifina, we start from the premise that each individual should have a master copy of their data. In our user-held data ecosystem, individuals can connect all their data sources and create their own personal data hubs.
Once you have all your personal data in one place (your personal data cloud), you can start exploring it: your personal AI assistant will answer questions about your own personal data (not random public data that has no relevance to you).
For example, you can ask your Personal AI assistant how well you slept last night, or after finishing your daily morning exercise, you can ask your personal AI assistant about your performance today and what circumstances during the past few weeks contribute to better or work physical condition.
Here are some more specific examples of Personal AI assistants that We at Prifina built to empower individuals with their own personal data:
Example #1: My personal avatar
At Prifina, we built a personal avatar that takes into account data from an individual's personal fitness devices and, based on various biomarkers, appears differently. So, if you were staying well hydrated, got enough sleep and also managed to exercise, your avatar appears fit and energetic. However, If you worked long hours today and did not have enough rest last night, the avatar will appear sluggish and unhappy.
You can also interact with your personal avatar and ask: “what is my readiness level now?” “How can I improve my productivity today?” The avatar will give you a response based on your own personal, and if relevant, some public data (e.g., weather conditions during your recent activity, etc.).
Example #2: My Data Diary
Imagine if you could connect multiple data sources to your daily calendar: your wearable fitness devices, sleep trackers, home IoT devices and your online accounts (such as Spotify or Netflix, etc.) and that you talk to your data diary, what would you ask?
For instance, you could ask your data diary about your readiness level before and after the meeting, or how focused you were before the meeting.
Based on your wearables and other data, you could also ask your personal data diary about the music or surrounding circumstances that make your day more productive, wouldn’t that be great?
What else would you like to explore with your intelligent data diary?
Empowering Developers: Liberty. Equality. Data.
Prifina’s open developer platform empowers developers to build applications that can correlate different data sources - both private and public.
At Prifina, we are gradually releasing resources for developers to build on top of user-held data and to integrate various machine-learning tools into apps. These tools help developers and brands build applications to help individuals get adily value from their data - to interact with their data and ask anything.
Consider all possible use cases where individuals could benefit from their personal data: health and wellbeing, emotional state, connected home and offices, optimizing daily routines, and so on.
In Prifina’s personal data infrastructure, personal AI tools can be embedded in any application. Such personal AI assistants could take different forms: a simple chat window or voice-to-text where you can ask your personal AI any question and get an answer based on your personal data and publicly available data.
Most importantly, Prifina’s user-held data model ensures the privacy and safety of personal data because every user’s data is private by default.
Welcome to the human-centric data ecosystem, powered by Prifina!