Smart Watch naysayers and the inevitable rise of Wearable Tech

Posted on September 16, 2013

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A diversion into the world of wearable tech for my first post after a Summer recess.

The naysayers are already lining up to herald the failure of smart watches including a couple of post from ZDNet with The problems with the smart watch even Apple can’t solve and Wearable computing: Why there’s no room for watches like Galaxy Gear. There is also a much more direct post from Medium with Why Smart watches will fail.

The sum of these and other similar criticisms are that the screens are too small and that there is no practical way of data input given the size of the device relative to the average, never mind the fatter, finger.

What these reviewers, critics and bloggers are overlooking is that the smart watch is not intended to be a small version of the increasingly inaccurately named smart phone. To date, we have computed on computing terms. At a desk, perhaps on our laps using a keyboard and screen. Wearable technology is about computing on human terms. Wearable marks a profound change to our relationship with technology.

Smart phones like the Pebble along with devices like Google Glass,  the Jawbone Up, Nike Fuelband and the San francisco based fitness tracking startup Fitbit fresh from raising another $43m  all owe a debt to the work of Mark Weiser a researcher at the Xerox Parc Alto Research Centre. More than thirty years ago, Weiser predicted that computing would go way beyond personal and would be ‘in the woodwork’ it would be everywhere; it would be ubiquitous.

Wearable computing is just the start of ubiquitous and situational computing that monitors and responds to our needs, our situation, in context. Wearable doesn’t need a screen or a keyboard, it need only do one thing well and be connected to the internet through equally ubiquitous connectivity.  In the old world a PC user selected the time, manner and duration of their interaction with a machine. In a world of ubiquitous and pervasive computing the thermostat at home is changed, journeys are redirected, sleep patterns detected, alternative arrangements for transit delays organised and medication regimes checked without a keyboard or screen, touch or otherwise.

In the interest of full disclosure the author is a functioning geek with a growing collection of wearables. For example, my Kickstarter edition pebble watch will track my running pace through Runkeepe and alert me to incoming calls, text messages and emails on a low-power e-ink screen. Contained within its (more geek than chic) case is a magnetometer, ambient light sensors and an accelerometer. It will also tell the time.

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