Livescribe's smartpens incorporate a digital voice recorder, computer and display. When the pen is used to write on Anoto smart paper, which is peppered with a matrix of barely visible tiny dots, the pen is able to remember its track on the paper and to synchronise a recording with what was written at the time.
That recording can then be replayed simply by touching the pen on the paper, or can be uploaded to a PC (or Mac) - and now to Evernote - so that the entire writing session and its associated recording can be replayed on the screen, or uploaded to Livescribe's web site from where it can be viewed as a 'pencast' - recreation of the original writing session accompanied by its associated recording.
In mid 2011 a new version, the Echo Smartpen, was introduced along with new software http://www.itwire.com/business-it-news/technology/47326 to complement the existing Livescribe Desktop that enabled Smartpen files to be shared as animated pdf files by uploading to Evernote, Facebook and Google Docs (now Google Drive) or sent via email.
With the new WiFi enable Sky Smartpen uploading to Evernote takes place while the pen is in use so long as it is not being used to record audio, in which case the upload happens when the recording has been completed. Livescribe says it intends to update the software on the Smartpen so that syncing can take place in the background while recording is in progress.
The Sky Smartpen no longer uses the Livescribe Desktop or Livescribe Connect software - however these will be retained to support the earlier Pulse and Echo Smartpen and the Echo will continue to be sold.
The ability to upload to Facebook, Google Drive, Dropbox and email is not available on the Sky at launch but will be added early in 2013. However there will not be the same tight integration with other services that there is with Evernote: the two companies have forged a strategic multiyear partnership.
Back in 2010 Livescribe cofounder Jim Marggraff foreshadowed the introduction of wireless connectivity and other functions that this would make possible.
He told iTWire then: "We want you to be able to write 'buy' and '[book title]' and get a message back '[book title] available on Amazon.com $19.95. Sign to buy now.' And you would just sign your name to buy it." He said' "This is coming. Once we go wireless, this is real."
He added: "The types of things you'll be able to buy will be pretty simple at first. Books are easy; flowers, and gifts. The list will get more sophisticated over time."
To use the new Sky Smartpen the user needs to link it to their Evernote account and register it on a WiFi network. Then as soon as a recording/note taking session is ended it will be uploaded to Evernote. If the pen is not connected to WiFi, the upload will take place the next time a WiFi connection is established.
Livescribe is also introducing a Mobile SDK for Apple iOS (Q4 2012) and Android (1H 2013) that will enable the pen to connect directly to a tablet or smartphone using a local WiFi network and to stream notes and audio to a specific application.
The company says it is ideally suited for enhancing note-taking, drawing, annotation and collaboration applications. In one application demonstrated at the launch of the Sky Smartpen, a pdf file was viewed on the tablet and notes taken with the smartpen. Afterwards, touching the note pulled up the page of the pdf to which it related. In another application, notes could me made with the Smartpen and then used to annotate the pdf.
The Sky Smartpen will come in three versions; 2GB, 4GB and 8GB at $229, $275 and $345 respectively. The 2GB and 4GB models come with the ability to upload 500MB per month of smartpen content to the basic free Evernote account, which has a limit of 60MB of general files per month.
The 8GB model comes with a free one year subscription to an Evernote Premium account that has a 1GB per month limit for all types of files.
The 2GB version of the Echo Smartpen will remain on sale at $166. The first model, the Pulse, has been discontinued.
In addition to higher upload limits the Premium Evernote account also comes with additional features: users can allow others to edit their notes, they can take notebooks offline, files can be up to 100Mb instead of 25Mb and they gain priority support.