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With the Microsoft band, the tech giant’s recently released wearable, and Apple’s smartwatch due in 2015, it’s safe to say the battle for the wrist is officially on.
Historically speaking, devices like smartwatches skirmished back in the 1990s. But the products were more novel than practical, not to mention dreadful to use. Remember, these were companions to PCs back then, not cloud-connected smartphones. If you wanted to get your calendar appointments on your smartwatch, it generally involved doing something ridiculous like holding the watch up to a blinking-lines PC monitor that would “flash” the data over. Smartwatches were good ideas back then, but all were products looking for a market, plagued by being well ahead of convenient technologies like Bluetooth, cloud services, and so on to make using them feasible.
The resurgence in developing companion devices for the wrist hit full force when people started slapping the iPod Nano into a watch band and experimenting with fitness trackers like the Nike FuelBand or one of Fitbit’s products. In just a few years’ time, the innovative start-ups have enticed big players like Google, Microsoft, Samsung, and Apple to jump in.
There’s no question the market soon will be flooded with a huge variety of devices for the wrist. Like the foray into smartwatches before, however, the problem is finding a real purpose for strapping electronics to your wrist. Merely counting your footsteps or showing you updates from social networks isn’t enough. Trying to completely move interaction from the phone to the wrist is almost too much. Both can be interesting use cases to augment with specialized hardware, but neither is all that compelling over the things people do today.
That said, there is great potential in a wrist companion that truly adds value. Microsoft Band, for example, tracks and stores data from more sensors than a Star Trek tricorder. By itself, that’s not very interesting. Tied to machine learning and intelligent data processing in the cloud, the wrist could very well be the gateway to some incredible personal and (more important for you, ChannelPro-SMB reader) business uses. If it pans out, the channel may be selling and integrating wearables like PCs and phones.
The more advanced models today can monitor and report on how well you sleep. Imagine how a nursing home could use data like that. Making intelligent correlations between prescriptions, meals, and daily activities with sleep patterns, it could be easy to notice that a resident who takes a certain medicine at 8 p.m. sleeps better than someone who takes it at 6 p.m., or residents who exercise in the morning sleep better than those who hit the treadmill later in the day. In the hands of a freight company, driver routes could be optimized based on who is the most rested, and breaks could be forced in real time if sensors indicate a driver is getting tired.
Ultimately, gadgets for the wrist will come in a number of shapes and sizes, with varying degrees of operational difficulty and with different functionality. But the only ones that will be useful will be chock-full of sensors with an intelligent cloud behind them … and support Bluetooth.
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