The Next Device: On Your Wrist

pebbleWhat possibly could you do with another device? You now have your laptop, your tablet and your smartphone – and most of these devices you take with you everyday, at least the smartphone. Add to this the big screen TV. And now people are talking about smart watch. Why would you need another device like a smart watch? If you think about it, the smart watch has the potential to disrupt some of the functionality of the smartphone.

One of the biggest news for the Consumer Electric Show (CES) in Las Vegas earlier this year (2013) was the avalanche of smart watches. This is five years after LG introduced it’s smart watch at the same show in 2009 and 63 years after Dick Tracy. What’s different now is the interoperability of the watch with your smartphone and even the cloud. As I have argued, the important development in last few years is how our digital profile is becoming cloud based. That means, our information is available in all device all the time. Syncing is ubiquitous.

The latest hit is undoubtedly the Pebble from Pebble Technology. This Kickstarted developed watch is already famous for asking for $100.000 and getting over $10 million in funding. It is also crowd-developed with potential buyers deciding what they find important in a watch. For example, which colours to support.

Now Apple is rumoured to be developing iWatch a companion to the iPhone and the iOS ecosystem. Some reports say that this is some years away since the glass technology is not ready, but others say that it may become available soon.

This interesting may seem strange, in particular because it is coming from a generation that simply don’t wear watch. The digital generation which grew up with computers and cellphones, never got used to wristwatches. There was no need. The environment is surrounded with time. Why have a single function device that is also redundant. Now the watch less generation is discovering watches.

The idea of a smart watch is not new. Microsoft developed it’s SPOT technology at the beginning of the century. SPOT stands for Smart Personal Object Technology and was not specifically targeted at watches but every day household items, such as coffee machines, alarm clocks and satnav devices. The service was based on FM radio signals and was more like a broadcast. The service started in 2004 and was discontinued in 2011. SPOT is an interesting technology. It was too late in the race for GPS devices it was too early for watches.

The new generation of watches is different. There are three ways in which this is different now. First, smartphones have become very popular and widespread. Having a watch that syncs with your smartphone is possible. Of course watches can have 3G or 4G connectivity. Second, we now have contant connectivity. They are always-on and syncs with your smartphone. And thirdly, these are powerful computers. These computers can be built today. So according to the adjacent possible, smart watches are ready for the market.

Another thing that is also different is that smart watches are customised for your own content and can display notification such as emails or messages. Having a constant view of what is going on is sure to fuel the  checking habit, a syndrome where people are in constant need to check for something new.

We have yet to see if the watch will take off significantly and disrupt traditional watches. We have to realize that these watches are just one of many things we will see come in the next few years. It represents a whole category of things – Internet of things. New objects as well as old everyday object are becoming aware of their environment and connected using wi-fi or 3G/4G. We are seeing the beginning of the wearable revolution. Indeed, this will become the decade of the wearables.