Wrist-Watch Computer?

An Article By: David Tan, Chief Technology Officer, CHIPS Technology Group

With the official release of the Apple Watch this week (I guess Apple decided the name iWatch was a little too creepy), it seems like a good time to step back and think a little about wearable technology and the future of computer platforms and interfaces. Wearable technology is the blanket term for any sort of computer you wear. Smart watches like the Apple Watch fall into this category, as do things like Google Glass and the FitBit health monitor you might wear on your wrist. Making computers a part of the everyday items we wear is most certainly a growing trend, but will it become a primary computing interface for you in the future.

The Apple Watch is being received as both a breakthrough in wearable technology, but also a bit of a novelty and a toy. On the downside, you need to have your phone on you at all times to use it (the majority of the computing happens on the phone, but can be displayed on the watch). Some people think it’s the pinnacle of lazy to want to look at your watch instead of reaching into your pocket, but I’m going to take a different view.

Say you’re in a meeting or at a business lunch. These often happen in the middle of the day – a critical time for business communications. It’s obviously rude and considered bad form in these environments to check your phone, email, texts and tweets constantly, but it’s not hard to imagine something really important happening that needs your attention. Glancing down at your watch is much less intrusive and disruptive than pulling out a phone would be. So while I’m not encouraging this type of technology to allow you to be rude, I do see the value in subtle access to your communications via a simple device on your wrist you can glance at nonchalantly.

Google glasses weren't widely adopted at all last year, but I don’t think they were ever really intended to be. They were kind of clunky and the functionality was limited. However as a proof of concept, they were truly pioneering. Having a heads-up display computer on you at all times, outside of your primary line of vision is truly revolutionary. Being able to see location aware data about what you’re looking at offers tremendous opportunity in the business and consumer world.

Of course it would be great to walk down the street, look at a restaurant and be able to pull up reviews, see the menu, and even make a reservation, all from an image displayed seemingly off in the distance on your glasses, but that’s just the beginning. Imagine the business use cases that can be addressed. A doctor with instant, hands-free access to medical journals and case history, all from the glasses they are wearing. A mechanic or engineer who can pull up documentation and blueprints about whatever system they are working on. A lawyer with instant access to hundreds of years of legal case history. The possibilities are truly limitless.

Wearable technology is definitely still at its infant stages right now, and can arguably be called somewhat of a fad. That doesn't mean it doesn't hold great promise for the future. Smart Phones like the iPhone were thought to be toys when they were first developed as well, now they are an indispensable business tool. And no, to answer the question in my headline I don’t think your primary computer will ever be on your wrist. I do however think that critical parts of your technology arsenal will be continually worked into devices you wear on your person. I guess in some ways, we are turning ourselves into super computers with the clothes and accessories we wear every day. Now that’s a pretty scary thought!