Connected watch tightening links to the phone

A number of companies are looking to create a watch with Bluetooth capabilities, but with it comes a variety of challenges like battery life and reliability.

05/14/2012


To start off with a bit of honesty, when Apple first released the iPad back in 2010 I’ll admit, I was thoroughly unimpressed and, outside of business trips, I still lack any real impetus to part with hard earned cash. I had a similar sentiment when I first heard about the Bluetooth enabled watch.

Having spoken to a number of watch manufacturers, there are different outlooks as to what level of functionality such a watch should provide. Whilst some see Bluetooth as a means to enable a basic task, such as providing time zone updates from the handset, others see the watch as a user friendly interface to access a range of other functions from the smartphone. The range of technologies that some are purporting they will include in the watch in addition to Bluetooth is impressive, including Wi-Fi, GPS and NFC as well as touch screen operation.

Just including Bluetooth will allow the wearer to keep their smartphone in their pocket whilst accessing numerous functions. These include, viewing caller IDs and text messages, social media interaction, feedback from fitness devices i.e. heart rate, as well as controlling music and receiving updates on local weather conditions.

The first Bluetooth watch was released by Citizen in 2006, since then many other companies have also begun to address the connected watch market. At the forefront are not only watch developers such as Casio and Meta Watch (formerly a part of Fossil), but also handset manufacturers i.e. Sony (formerly Sony Ericsson) and the startup Pebble, which has received over $10 million in fundraising.

With so many applications available on the watch, there are natural concerns over how long the watches battery will last. After all, having these new toys available is great, but the experience would be very much tarnished if the user was left high and dry with a dead battery, just a couple of days from the last charge. Whilst the introduction of Bluetooth low energy is expected to help with energy savings, this may not be the answer in itself for those watches using multiple functions or with touch screen displays.

As well as overcoming battery problems, manufacturers also have to work out how to get these products to the customer. Watches are essentially seen as a piece of jewelry, rather than a timepiece, with jewelry stores the main vehicle for distribution to the consumer. However, many connected watches have more in common with consumer electronics than a traditional watch and would look out of place in such a shop. Whilst the ubiquity of e-commerce will help, manufacturers must still find a means to enable the consumer to get their hands on the product and experiment with the various use cases.

These products have still got a long way to go to come close to the success of another wearable device – the Bluetooth headset – and over the next five years IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., expects to see a few tens of millions of units shipped. However, as with the Bluetooth headset, and even more so the now hugely successful tablet PC, the consumer electronics market is one driven by trends and fashion, and with the influence currently held by Apple, the release of an iWatch could make the connected watch the next must-have wearable technology.



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