The smartwatch is dead upon arrival? Why? Because we are using the same paradigm for connected watches, as we use for connected phones. For one thing I always wanted to write a post with a title like this play on the famous Wired article. The second thing, smartwatches are not yet dead on arrival, but the first wave of this new product category is. The smartwatch game has changed gear last week with Samsung and Sony presenting their competitors, joining the already existing Pebble and the likes. And I can see why, the market potential for smartwatches and other wearable devices could be a $50 billion market by 2017, according to Credit Suisse.
So what's wrong the first round of smartwatches? They are not smart enough.
Wearable devices such as smartwatches, could go well beyond the functions of a smartphone while also adding completely new ones. I'm talking about sensors around the body, on objects and surroundings and in other devices. They can offer intelligence based on context, which can make it one of the most personalized ways of interaction with information yet. For now, it has mostly been shifting notifications over to another screen. If smartwatches like Samsung Gear mostly boil down to another notification platform, I feel that that wouldn’t make much sense. Users have a personal hierarchy of what kind of information is important. I don’t need a push notification of a tweet if I’m trying to catch a train, I need to know how much time I have left and even better: calculating distance to walking speed, I need to know if I need to walk faster to make it. Real time needs to become right time.
Imagine a smartwatch based on Google NowPretend such a watch exists. You’re walking around downtown when a reminder pops up because you’re near a food market. “Buy milk” your watch says. The watch knows you’re walking around and warns you of an upcoming weather change: Better get inside. Your next appointment pops up as a reminder, just in time for you attend. A little while later, the watch says “Your spouse just left work and will be home in 35 minutes” followed by a reminder to leave work a little early because there’s traffic on the way home. You get the idea. Here’s the key: None of this useful information required you to input anything in the watch. And that’s one key element that’s a tough nut to crack when it comes to smartwatches: User input is difficult to accept on a small screen. Google Now doesn’t typically require user input because it gathers information from your Google data. Creepy, perhaps, but arguably useful.
Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst at Forrester and speaker at our symposium in June and our upcoming Executive Summit, says: "You can call me a smartwatch skeptic. I don't see that any vendor, with the possible exception of Apple, can make smartwatches a mainstream success." I feel like more companies, like Google, could create somewthing that adds new value. With advancement in sensors, the ever-growing amount of data in our ‘personal’ cloud, these devices can be so contextual. There are dozens of useful applications to be made. But we have to stop complementing the smartphone. Instead, we need to make something better.
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