Is there an imminent 'wearable revolution'?
At the D11 Conference in May, Mary Meeker and Liang Wu unveiled their Internet Trends Report where they spoke at some length about how we are entering an era of Wearable/Everywhere computing. Recent announcements from Samsung and Apple confirm our view at Fidelity Labs that people and technology are about to interact more intimately than ever before; in the near future, most of us may have not only a smartphone in our pocket but a smart device on our skin continuously measuring us, responding to physical cues, and providing information and feedback.
At Fidelity Labs, we have been studying several examples of the most common current iteration of the wearable smart device: the smartwatch. Smartwatches have been dreamed about since the days of *** Tracy comics, and Sony has had a smartwatch on the market since 2012. One of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns was for Pebble Watch, an e-ink-enabled smartwatch. The Pebble interacts with an iPhone or Android using Bluetooth and alerts users when they have an incoming call, email or messages, and can receive other customizable alerts from phone apps.
For months there has been public speculation on what capabilities a Samsung smartwatch might have. A few weeks ago at the IFA technology trade show in Berlin, Samsung revealed the new Galaxy Gear smartwatch, which includes the ability to track health metrics and has a camera integrated into the wrist band. Similar to the Pebble, the Galaxy Gear watch is not a phone in its own right, but rather relies on being connected to a Smart Phone. Samsung is now working with developers to create apps for the Galaxy Gear watches.
Last week Apple also announced their new mobile phone lineup, including their new operating system, iOS 7, and two new phones (one of which includes a fingerprint scanner). There was speculation that Apple might also announce a watch during their special event on September 10th; they did not, but they did reveal that the new iPhone 5S would include an M7 chip, a “motion co-processor” that can continuously track data from the phone’s gyroscope, compass and accelerometer. As we look at the functions that have been offloaded to this separate chip, we do not think it a far stretch to think that these new features position Apple to release a wearable device in the near future.
Fidelity Labs has worked on leading-edge of mobile application development for the last few years, including helping to design and launch the Fidelity Investments Retail app for iOS, the Fidelity Health and Insurance app for iOS and Android (now the Fidelity Netbenefits app), the Fidelity Charitable iPhone app and the Fidelity Investments Windows Phone 8 app. We are excited at the prospect of experimenting with new form factors for human-computer interaction as new wearable devices are released. For example, we recently released an aspirational video for Google Glass, and an app that can be downloaded by the current Glass developer community. As new form factors and technologies are released, we will continue to release prototypes and full-scale applications.
We’d love to hear what you think about this emerging technology, as well. Will these watches be the new geek-chic or a techno-flop? Will wearable computers be the next big thing? Are you interested in buying a smartwatch? Why or why not? If you could see more than just the time on your wrist, what would it be?