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Wearable Computing – smartwatch: Here to stay?

800px-Pebble_watch_email_1

Wearable computing is not a new concept but after Google Glass announcement, it became central part of any and every technology / innovation related blogs and news article. Internet connected computing devices have already started becoming integrated parts of bracelets, wrist watches, and shoes. Evangelists and Analysts are predicting huge market for wearable computing around sports, gaming, entertainment and fashion industries.

[My original apprehensions around Google Glass are still valid and hoping to see some changes in their design though.]

Smartwatch is computerized wrist watch with functionality enhanced beyond basic timekeeping and features comparable to a smart phone. This tiny device can have features like camera, accelerometer, email, SMS, rechargeable battery, Bluetooth connectivity, SIM card, 3G+ connectivity,  2-2.5 inch display, storage, OS, etc and of course time keeping functionality.

In simple words, most of the smartwatches will pair with your smartphones (Android / iOS) and keep you updated with different notifications you get (email, SMS, Facebook, Twitter, etc). So you do not need to take out your phone and act rude in an important meeting, conference or while talking with your boss. You can just look at your wristwatch and get instant understanding of who is trying to reach you, who is trying to interact with you or who has just responded to you. No need to take out your phone from your pocket or bag. It is simple and convenient way of being always (in true sense) connected with digital ecosystem around you.

London based ABI Research forecasts the wearable computing device market will grow to 485 million annual device shipments by 2018. In its press release , they mentioned “wearable computing devices are projected to explode in popularity over the next year and with a wave of new gadgets set to hit the consumer market, could soon become the norm for most people within five years.”
Consumer market is huge and smart watch kind of devices has scope to penetrate and win that market. Before I raise few critical points around its adoption in later part of the post, let’s see what  major market influencers are doing in this space:

1.  Apple’s iWatch: Wait is still on. There were rumors that two manufacturers in Taiwan have won orders to build iWatch which will come into market sometime in 2014. If Mr. Cook brings it to market sometime, it would be interesting to know how the product differentiates from iPhone, and iPod market.

2. Google: Though Google has not made any official announcements about plans for Smartwatch, they have acquired WIMM Labs which has technology and skills to build Android platform based Smartwatch. Probably in near future we may hear Google’s plan in this space.

3. Neptune Pine: Canada based innovative products company is releasing its smartwatch in December 2013. Preorder offer is available at the website at USD 335. Here are the technical specifications of this smartwatch (http://www.neptunepine.com/tech-specs.html).

4. Samsung Galaxy Gear: It seems Samsung is announcing its high-tech watch in first week of Sept 2013. The early leaked specifications of the watch include features of low to mid range smartphone.

5. Sony: Sony is bringing android compatible smartwatch with one touch NFC soon (http://www.sonymobile.com/global-en/products/accessories/smartwatch-2-sw2/). Specifications of this future smartwatch are here

6. Pebble:  Pebble (http://getpebble.com/) connects to iPhone and Android smartphones using Bluetooth, alerting person wearing it with a silent vibration to incoming calls, emails and messages. They have already started shipping these devices and are available in Best Buy for $149.99. You can see Pebble smartwatch image in this post. [Acknowledgement: Image source – Wikipedia]

More or less, the smartwatch is here and considering the features and price ranges, it is probably going to stay here for sure. Obviously, most of these smarwatches are new to the market and will take some time to evolve with respect to size of screen, battery life, paring issues, apps, etc. And not to forget that real leaders of digital gadgets – Apple and Google are not yet in the market. They may influence and change the market in different direction.

Based on what we see today, it seems, smartwatch would become fashion statement considering look and feel and price range. It would attract young and mid age groups easily. Though it is a nice device to have, few of the doubts I still have in mind are as below:

1.  Other than exercise and sports activity, do you think you cannot take out device from your pocket or bag to check phone call or text message?

2. When you are in a meeting or discussing with someone, cannot you wait to see the message or mail?

3. Do you really need to be connected with digital ecosystem so closely? You can probably turn off the laptop and mobile but how would you turn off the wristwatch? Time does not stop for anyone, right? (I know, your answer would be turn off all notifications and have just wrist watch. If that is the case, what is wrong with the existing one?)

4. Reading text on 2 inch screen would have potential issues with your eyes. A 2011 study by the State University of New York College of Optometry found that people hold mobile phones 2 to 9 inches closer to their eyes – on average –than they hold printed materials like newspapers, books and magazines. Such close range may help an individual see the text better, but it can cause eye irritation, strain and pain Refer this report for your eyes benefits.

5. Will you be able to achieve work-life balance with such constant connectivity to communication streams?

What you think?

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Note: All these blog posts and views mentioned in my personal blog are my own and NOT of my current and previous employers. I am NOT representing any of my organizations through this blog. This blog is just for sharing my findings based on publicly available information related to interesting things happening in Technology area.

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