Home Your Tech Mobility Watch out – wearable computing is back on the agenda

It is not about watches or glasses or any other wearable device – it is about what replaces smartphones once they become too big to be ‘pocketable’.

‘If I had a dollar for every article written about the fabled Apple watch and now the Samsung, LG, Windows, Pebble, Nike, Sony, Jawbone…’ The question is ‘Have smart phones fully evolved?’

The rumours are all about one thing – extending the functionality of smartphones beyond the glass slabs that sit in your pocket or handbag to a glass slab that sits on your wrist.

So here is a roundup of the main rumours:

Pebble gets first place because they actually made a great looking watch that you can buy and actually works. It connects to iPhone or Android using Bluetooth and can take incoming calls, emails, messages, twitter feeds, Facebook messages, calendar and weather. Apps (that run on the smartphone, not the watch) give it added functionality in sports (golf), navigation, fitness, music and more. At US$150 it’s a great add on that deserves to succeed. 


Microsoft is “placing Windows on an ARM” perhaps to literally. But the intent is the same – a device that extends the functionality of the smartphone. Microsoft says medical applications (body temperature, heart rate, perspiration, sleep and exercise monitoring and yet to be developed (miniaturised) sensors will help drive the market. However I suspect that this move is more to help its OEM partners like Nokia and even tablet makers to extend the functionality of not only smartphones but tablets. Microsoft so far is the only one that has mentioned NFC capability and issues of unintended “false touch” (loosely called PocketTouch).

Apple have captured the imagination with a patent for a wraparound watch (see iTWire article). The key success factors for an iWatch will be (a) flawless Siri integration and (b) that Apple controls the environments so there will be no artificial impediments to what it can do. The most recent rumour is that the iPod nano with a flexible wide strap is the preferred form factor – at least for the first public airing. 




Samsung never to be outdone by Apple will have to be in the game too. It will be cheaper, more garish and released earlier than Apple that like to put out finished, quality devices – not something rushed to market. I am not being unkind to Samsung – they have come a long way in a short time. Rumours here are of a 50mm square display.



Jawbone have a wristband that tracks sleep and other activity, Basis is leading in health monitoring and Nike has a fitness bracelet.

Google have the Glass – just as the name says wearable glasses that project onto a tiny screen but others are emulating that too – a kind of heads up display for heads.

Whatever the outcome Gartner forecasts this new computing segment will be US$10 billion by 2015 – if they include Glass and vertical markets like health care I think they forgot to add a few zeros to that.

Note that there are even conferences on wearable computing – the IEEE ISWC 2013 in Zurich is a good place to start.


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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!


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