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This article was published on May 30, 2014

How Pebble uses Keen IO’s analytics to build a better smartwatch

How Pebble uses Keen IO’s analytics to build a better smartwatch
Josh Ong
Story by

Josh Ong

Josh Ong is the US Editor at The Next Web. He previously worked as TNW's China Editor and LA Reporter. Follow him on Twitter or email him a Josh Ong is the US Editor at The Next Web. He previously worked as TNW's China Editor and LA Reporter. Follow him on Twitter or email him at [email protected].

When smartwatch maker Pebble wanted to track ecommerce activity on its site, it turned to custom analytics platform Keen IO. Now, Pebble has tapped the company to also gather data on customer usage of its devices and apps. Update for clarity:  The data Pebble collects is anonymous and approved by users.

Keen IO got started 2 1/2 years ago by a group of developers who were tired of building in-house analytics infrastructure. Their goal was to make a platform so flexible that nobody would have to do it themselves ever again. The service allows customers to collect an unlimited amount of data for any type of event and then makes that available in the cloud for them to query, visualize and share.

“We exist so we can deal with the pain so other people don’t have to,” Keen IO co-founder Dan Kador said in an interview.

Kador added that Pebble helped the company validate the theory that its analytics service tends to start in the accounts department and then spider across an organization.


After integrating Keen IO with its ecommerce store, Pebble rolled it out to its companion app, the developer app store and then the device itself as more teams found out about what it could do.

Benjamin Bryant, Pebble’s analytics lead, explained the service’s appeal in a statement:

As a rapidly growing wearables company in a new space, we need very customizable analytics to connect software and hardware interactions with user experience. Keen IO’s platform gives our data team the flexibility, scale and future-proofness we need to gain critical insights. We get to focus on metrics and data science, because we’re abstracted away from the headaches of maintenance around streaming big-data.

According to Kador, Pebble started out with initial questions like what types of customers were landing on the page, which ads worked best and which techniques helped convert visitors into paying customers.

Over time, the company began asking more questions, such as what types of apps users installed and what the on-boarding process looks like. Pebble also uses Keen IO to track which features on the watch aren’t being used so it knows whether to cut anything in future versions.

Here are some of the questions Pebble set out to answer with its analytics, as laid out in a Keen IO white paper:

  • Are users properly setting up and configuring their watches, or is the process confusing to them?
  • How many hours is each watch connected to a user’s phone per day?
  • Which features on the watch are being used most? How frequently?
  • How effective is the ordering and shipping process? Which processes could be streamlined or improved?
  • How do marketing events impact cohorts of e­commerce purchases?
  • What does the developer activity on the platform look like?
  • How many apps were downloaded per user per week?
  • What events were occurring right before the watch crashes?
  • Which, if any specific configurations correlate with watch crashes?

Keen IO views itself as one of a number of companies that are reinventing the traditional software stack for other startups. Twilio, for instance, has made telephony and communication easy through its platform and API, while Stripe has done a similar job with payments.

“We think of ourselves doing the exact same thing: solving the analytics problem with a platform and API,” Kador said. “The thing that’s really exciting is that solving the generalized analytics problem might be even harder than those two.”

The combination of big data and wearables has brought us into an age where we can glean insights from just about everything we do. As Keen IO and Pebble work together, Pebble can improve both the user experience and its own business prospects.