Category Archives: Wearables

The future of the Smart Home is wearable

Smart watches are getting smarter. A second-generation swathe on display at IFA last month gracefully made the point. Swankily strapped, slimmed down and circular, they are starting to look less and less like their geeky forebears, and more like something I might wear one day. This of course is aided by slowly but surely lengthening battery lives and an increasingly diversified set of offerings and prices.

However, aesthetics, price and endurance – no matter how improved – will mean little to me and millions of other consumers until the IoT potential of smart watches is truly unlocked.

Devices and technologies exhibited at IFA didn’t disappoint on this front either. Walking into the LG Smart Home demonstration, our hostess brought her futuristic abode to life by informing her LG Watch Urbane that she was “coming home” which put on the lights, air con and speakers. “Going out” brought the house to a standstill again. Meanwhile, Withings demonstrated the integration of its Home IP Camera with the Apple Watch that allows you to track your household activities from your wrist.

Both of these use-case scenarios hint at the broader potential of smart watches – as the ideal nexus between the smart home and the smart person.

Although the smartphone has been touted as the hub of choice in an increasingly connected world, a case can be made for the smart watch as an ideal mediator in its own right; always body-borne, voice-command ready and motion-detection capable, the smart watch is potentially a much more intuitive and natural way to interact with the smart home.

No surprise then that in our Smart Home Survey, smart watch owners were the most likely to buy a smart home product in the near future – not just a reflection of their early adopter status, but also of the growing recognition that their existing purchases have more value integrated into their own Internet of Things (IoT).

Indeed, in the world of IoT, each individual object’s utility is a function of the network effects between dozens of other interacting things. Smart-home appliances will have more value thanks to the context provided by smart watches – and vice versa. Such a convergence will enable an ever-smarter smart home that pre-empts the needs of its occupants rather than passively responding to their commands.

This theme was highlighted in our very own CONTEXT Retail CEO Breakfast at IFA, where David Bailey, VP of Global Retail Development at SmartThings, argued that it is key to communicate not just what consumers can “do with” the new technology but, more importantly, what the technology can “do for” them.

by TG



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Filed under Connectivity, Home automation, IoT, Mobile technology, Retail in CONTEXT, Smart Home, Smart Technology, Wearables

Apple Watch – flop or not?

When Apple announced the Watch, commentators were quick to claim that it would help bring wearables out from geek obscurity and into the light of the mass-market. Just like Apple had reinvented smartphones, mp3 players and tablets, so too would the smart watch be re=imagined for the likes of you, your grandmother, and me.

Several months on however, the vacuum generated by Apple’s reticence to release actual sales figures has opened up a speculative space: is it (and by extension the Smart Watches category as a whole) a flop or not?

A flurry of sensationalist articles pointing to a supposed 90% plunge in US Apple Watch sales certainly steer one towards the flop end of the spectrum. Slice Intelligence, the source of these figures, accompanied these claims with some dramatic looking figures.

The question is, how many early adopters can there be? Those keen enough to buy into the first-gen Watch iteration would likely have rushed to adorn their wrists as soon as it came on the market, leaving only a few keen stragglers, and a greater mass of as of yet unconvinced customers, many of whom are waiting for a second generation no doubt.

What’s more, any ‘disappointing’ sales figures still effectively trounce the Smart Watch competition, capturing the lion’s share of the market in the space of just a few months. Reading between the lines of Apple’s recently published quarterly results, it appears that the Watch is already a billion-dollar business.

Clearly, any flop related commentary is not quite justified. Neither is it possible to speak of an inevitable success however. A whole suite of first-gen issues need to be ironed out before the Watch is quite ready for breakout success. Too much currently rests on marketing nous and brand loyalty, leaving many (including the Watch owners I have spoken to) unconvinced as to its actual use value.

So neither flop nor outright triumph, but most definitely a propitious start, most definitely a space to watch.

by TG

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Filed under IoT, Mobile technology, Smart Technology, Wearables

Like Apples and Androids 

Did you hear? The internet was abuzz earlier this month with suggestions that Google might be making its Android Wear OS – on which most Smart Watches are currently run – compatible with Apple’s iOS.

For lack of any further leaks, the web has fallen silent on the topic, pundits awaiting an update at Google’s upcoming I/O developer conference no doubt. Not that a Google confirmation would guarantee anything, Apple still have the right, and perhaps the will, to stop them in their tracks.

Why? Well, for one, allowing Android Wear powered Smart Watches into its world could very well steal the thunder from its recently released offering. Oh, and there is clause 3.1 in Apple’s App Developer guidelines: “Apps or metadata that mentions the name of any other mobile platform will be rejected”… hmmm, Android Wear…

So we will have to wait and see about that. But here’s why I’m hoping Apple will say YES. Firstly, it would be an unambiguous show of confidence in the merits of their own product: able to fend for itself without the need for a protectionist walled garden. Secondly, the added competition would incentivise Apple to stay ahead of the game, and release that all-important much improved second-gen Apple Watch I’m holding out for…

Finally, and most importantly, it would be consistent with the contemporary zeitgeist. At a time when we are starting to talk of a truly interconnected world – meshing together inanimate objects on individual, domestic, and city wide scales – incompatibilities between competing hardware/software solutions are starting to appear ever more anachronistic: the Internet-of-Apple-Things is not quite the same as the IoT.

Of course, there is no telling for certain that Google will make their play in any case, and as we have seen, there are very good reasons why Apple might turn them down even if they do so. But one can always hope. After all, times they are a changing. Indeed, who would have thought way back when that Microsoft would one day come to flaunt how nicely its hardware plays with Apple software? So who will win at wearables?

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Filed under Mobile technology, Smart Technology, Wearables

Ode to a Battery

by Adam Simon, Global Managing Director, Retail Business Development

As the Apple Watch goes on sale in the UK tomorrow, there will a chorus of disappointment about its battery life. The watch will need to be charged every night along with the multiple other gadgets which require such daily treatment.

How small-minded we are. Life is about to be breathed into the Cinderella category of wearables- full of promises but never previously present at the ball of consumer goods. We are about to engage in a game of conspicuous consumption with the ultimate new gadget, and the conversation will always revert back to how tiresome it is to be shortchanged by the cellular power unit!

So here is a verse dedicated to the Apple Watch battery ahead of its launch day of 24th April 2015.

Ode to a Battery
Oh wee piece of lithium

Humbly placed inside wrist-bound gem
Connecting time and place

You light up this day

With dreams of
Links to a new world

We extol you – virtue of man’s ingenuity

We laud you – precious life of gadgetry

We acknowledge you – hidden power of chronometry

Your daily charge fills our cup

Technology overflows

Let there be no discord
As gentle pulse

the face of Apple Watch

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Filed under Mobile technology, Wearables

Wellness is Wearables

by Theo Gibbons

Following our previous posts, which pitted Microsoft’s Band against Apple’s Watch, we turn this week to the theme of wearables and wellbeing. ‘Wellness’ was once a straightforward matter of kale concoctions, Pilates posturing, and Whole Foods foraging. No longer. Wellness is wearables. Wellness is big data.

Why? Well, amongst much uncertainty as to what, exactly, wearables have to offer, wellbeing and health have emerged as key value propositions.

The pitch goes something like this: ubiquitous wearable sensors are set to revolutionise healthcare by providing real-time, ongoing, and personalised data points; health professionals will be able to gain a complete picture outside of clinical settings and adjust treatment plans accordingly; individuals will be able to acquire new perspectives on their relevant behavioural patterns (think diabetics learning about how their dietary habits affect their blood glucose levels).

Indeed, Microsoft argues that its Band’s real value is realised through Health, a “cloud-based service that helps you live healthier by providing actionable insights”, drawing in information from “a variety of devices and services to give you insights into your entire day across nutrition, work, fitness and rest.” And it’s already a crowded market. Several tech companies are vying to develop the health tracking ecosystem of choice: Google Fit, Jawbone UP, and of course, Apple HealthKit all propose to bring together data from your favourite apps and hardware.

Wearables are growing up, graduating from glorified pedometers to bonafide health tracking devices. As Fitbit’s CEO, James Park puts it: “there’ll be a next big leap in benefits once we tie into more detailed clinical research and cross the hurdles and dialogue with the FDA about what we can do for consumers and what’s regulated or not.” Apple’s ResearchKit is already on the way to achieving just that. An open source framework that aims to bring iPhone owners and medical researchers together, it pushes the scope of wearables into new territory. Indeed, several big-name medical studies are already under way, establishing Apple’s sensors as research grade.

Success in this field would bring huge rewards, enabling tech companies to tap into a multi-billion health market (some $6.3 billion are spent each year on blood glucose test strips in the US alone). What’s more, the chronically ill make for a loyal customer base. It isn’t like they can just decide to drop their wearables on a whim. And even for the healthy, unifying ecosystems such as the Apple HealthKit inaugurate a new era of intimacy and dependency, capturing ever more of our bio-digital identities.


Filed under Big data, Mobile technology, Smart Technology, Wearables

Who will win at wearables?

by Theo Gibbons, Product Manager for Wearables

Following last week’s post, we continue to look at the differences between the Apple Watch and the Microsoft Band, and consider what these mean for their future in the world of wearables.

Are you app-y yet?
Both Apple and Microsoft have made sure to pitch their products at the sports crowd, crucial given that fitness fanatics still drive most of the demand for wearables. A broader, less niche consumer base however is the real prize: there are only so many people who care to capture the minutiae of their fitness routine.

But here’s the thing, ten times more sensors won’t necessarily make a wearable ten times more useful. A smorgasbord of intuitive and appealing apps however will bring us closer to a compelling case for wearables take up. And this is where Apple has a decisive advantage. Benefiting from the power to define the very ecosystem within which wearables operate, as well as the legacy of an active app market, it is putting out a product heavy on specs and features – all told, a promising environment for the development of Apple Watch specific apps.

By contrast, Microsoft is operating in a world that isn’t of their making. Indeed, the smartphone (tethered hub of choice for wearables of all sorts) OS market has been completely cornered by iOS and Android. All is not lost however. Making a virtue out of necessity, Microsoft has emphasised the Band’s OS cross-compatibility, and has released SDK’s (software development kits) for both iOS and Android. Given the Band’s varied and powerful sensors, new apps could very well differentiate it from the standard fitness trackers on the market.

So who will take the crown in the wearables world?
Microsoft is playing it safe, directly catering to an existing health and fitness consumer base with a powerful product at a very reasonable price-point (£169.99), all without attempting to reinvent itself as a tech/fashion company. It’s logical, it’s sensible, but it certainly isn’t radical. This is why all eyes are currently on Apple, who is expected to do for wearables what they did for the MP3 player, the smartphone, and the tablet: to bring them into the mainstream.

It is of course far too early to predict the success of the Watch, but if Apple succeeds in building a reasonably large initial user base for its first generation product, and entices enough app developers to bolster its value proposition, we could very well witness the shift in consumer consciousness from ‘nice-to-have-but-not-really-necessary’ to ‘must-have-wearable-essential’.


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Smartest band or ugliest watch?

by Theo Gibbons, Product Manager for Wearables

Both Apple and Microsoft will shortly be entering the UK wearables market, but with characteristically distinct products – what do the differences between the Apple Watch and the Microsoft Band reveal about their divergent approaches to the burgeoning world of wearables?

Wrist war
First things first – it is in the name after all – Microsoft’s offering is not a smart watch. Though you would be excused for thinking otherwise. It does after all show the time, preview emails, and buzz whenever a call, text or tweet comes through to your tethered smartphone, all standard features of self-proclaimed smart watches. Yet, as Microsoft’s Yusuf Medhi makes absolutely clear, the Band doesn’t intend to compete for dominant wrist real estate, being designed to “serve on the opposite side of your watch”. To avoid any possible confusion, the Band can even be worn self-effacingly, screen facing inwards.

Fashionista or Functionista?
So definitely not a smart watch. But why? Well, it is in line with Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella’s take on wearables: “devices will come and go. The most interesting thing is the data being collected”. Which explains why the Band was “Designed to showcase the power of Microsoft Health”, the software platform, and not vice versa. It is certainly true that as wearables become ever more discreet, the aesthetics of the hardware will be ever less relevant. But as it currently stands, wearables are in fact all too conspicuous, hence the marriage of necessity with fashion and design.

Apple, who have always appreciated the appeal of design beyond functionality and the pull of want beyond need, have taken this all very seriously for their first foray in wearables: hiring top execs from Yves Saint Laurent and Burberry; courting fashionista royalty during a Paris fashion week pop up; and splashing out on a 12 page PR spread in Vogue. Capping this all off was a typically superlative laden product launch, the “most personal device yet” promising to inaugurate a “new chapter in the relationship people have with technology”.

You get the picture: Apple is pitching an experience, not just an object. Whereas the Microsoft Band seeks to the obscurity of secondary wrists, Apple’s range of watches long for interaction and overt display.

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