Monday, 9 September 2013

"Psst! Want to buy a smart watch?"

Pebble, Google, Samsung, Sony, Qualcomm and soon Apple are all getting into the wearable game. A day does not seem to go by without another candidate for our wrists, belts, or eyes. Some are highly targeted towards specific markets, such as Nike, Garmin or Fitbit's sports devices. Even auto manufacturers are getting in on the game, Nissan today launched the Nismo, which monitors both telemetry such as speed and driver heart rate, all to improve safety and driver abilities. But with so many offering we are sitting at that confusing time when a new technological opportunity throws up many wild and diverse solutions. To take advantage of all these you would need arms like a street corner hustler.  

Unlike traditional wearable accessories where design, fashion and quality of materials play an important part, the decision process for tech wearables is more complex. Top amoungst many is battery life, this may be an area of consumer education. As phones switched from relatively dumb devices into today's smart phones we have become accustomed to the nightly recharging ritual. So maybe we should not think of smart watches in terms or normal watches, but as mini computers. Other considerations are usability, comfort, and a desire to look more or less like a geek. 

The big consideration is about ecosystems and capabilities. As most offerings will not be stand alone devices but paired to your mobile, the choice of OS is important. If you are wedded to either Android or IOS then you require a lot of impetus to switch. Either OS will promise a platform where third parties can develop apps to meet your every need. The Davids entering the market against these Goliath's face an up hill battle. But as we know, in technology the newstart can sometimes cause major disruption.

Individual companies bringing in task specialised watches will have a distinctly hard time. Being an you are established brand within a domain helps.  Or if the device targets an an activity where it is already established that you need to dress appropriately - sports, biking, medical then consumers may be willing to strap on a special it device. But if it is a  more integrated activity, such as driving, the barriers to donning automobile specific wearables is high. 

After years of research in the lab, the world of wearable tech is just starting to enter the mainstream. Many players want a slice of the $8.36 billion pie. As a consumer, my advice would be to hold my fire and give it a year before purchase. By then we will be on mark two or three of devices and the some of the early problems will have been ironed out and the best of a new generation of useful wearable apps should be clear.
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  1. Here's my take:

    1. I like it Gareth, you ar eright these things need to appeal to non geeks. I think there is a danger you might loose it and it has limited functionality. But as I said in a previous post, ( ) wrist watches became popular in the trenches of the first world war, as they are easier to access than pocet watches. They did not increase the functionality, so a smart watch that just allows you some simple functions but is elegant may work.