Category: Smartwatches and other wearables

Two more interesting smartwatch designs are surfacing

HP and Casio are each premiering a smartwatch that, like Swatch’s and Tissot’s idea, are different from the pack. One of these is a something that would be kept as a dress watch to wear when you are going out while the other one can identify those tunes playing on the radio or background-music setup while you are out and about.

Articles

HP’s luxury dress smartwatch

Take a look at HP’s luxury smartwatch | Engadget

HP, Gilt and designer Michael Bastion teaming up for a smartwatch | Android Authority

From the horse’s mouth

Gilt

Press Release

Casio’s G-Watch that identifies music

Casio’s Next G-Watch Uses SoundHound To Discover New Music | Engadget

Casio’s Latest Bluetooth Watch Puts Song Recognition On Your Wrist | Gizmodo

My Comments

The first of the watches is a luxury fashionable dress watch that is engineered by HP but designed by Gilt along with the fashion designer, Michael Bastian. This men’s watch has a round 44mm stainless-steel case and swappable leather bands, taking with it the “stylish yet cool” interior designs associated with some of the recent luxury cars out there.

For functionality, this is meant to interlink with iOS and Android devices using a platform-specific device, this courting the luxury market’s penchant for preferring the Apple iPhones as their smartphone options. At the moment, this watch offers notification functionality for email, text and calls along with being a control surface for music playback and some other apps.

Personally I would see the HP watch’s emphasis on style rather than geekiness more about either the watch to wear when you are going to the Melbourne Club or wanting to take out someone whom you are really trying to impress.

The second of these watches is Casio’s latest G-Shock smartwatch. This has notification functionality through its LCD display which exists behind the traditional clock face and also acts as a control surface for your phone, especially with your music using a knob on the edge of the bezel. It would work alongside a Casio-supplied platform-specific app for your smartphone and maintains the rugged look of other G-Shock watches.

But it also works along with SoundHound and an internal microphone to identify the music that is playing. Once identified, the song details appear on the watch’s LCD display.

The Casio watch would be on a par with other Android Wear smartwatches but has a long battery life thus avoiding the need for you to charge it every night. It would look the part more as a utility watch for everyday activities.

At the moment, these watches along with the previously covered Swatch watches come across more as baseline “control and display surfaces” that link to your smartphone using Bluetooth 4.0 LE a.k.a. Bluetooth Smart. But they would require the use of different apps to provide the software connection. Personally, what Google, Apple and Microsoft should work on is a baseline wearable specification which allows different wearable devices offering baseline functionality to link to the phone without the need to run many extra apps. As well, the watches should at least support using the phone as a “reference clock” for setting the time and adjusting for different time zones and daylight-savings time.

What is happening is that there are smartwatches that place less emphasis on the “geek nature” and could expose this genre of product to most of us.

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Swatch to bridge the Swiss watchmaking craft to the new connected wearable technology

Articles (German Language / Deutsche Sprache)

Swatch bringt seine eigene Smartwatch | PCTipp.ch

Swatch arbeitet an Fitnessuhr | Netzwoche.ch

My Comments

The Swiss aren’t far behind on the smart-watch bandwagon but are taking it a different path so as to preserve their craft and identity.

Swatch is developing a fitness-focused smartwatch that is totally different from the rest of the crowd. Here, this is more a watch that tells the time but is equipped with fitness sensors to measure how healthy you are. They are drawing on EM Microtechnology who is part of the Swatch Group and this company also have worked on GPS technology for a variety of fitness-driven applications.

But Swatch and Tissot, both part of the Swatch Group, are focusing on simpler fitness-focused smartwatch designs rather than the current equivalent of the 80s-era digital multifunction watch. They are approaching watch design on a “horses for courses” basis where different watches suit different people and different occasions. I see this as being highly important because, for example, a woman may want a watch that looks the part on her slender wrist or a man may want to have a dress watch for going out to impress along with a fitness watch for long walks and a utility smartwatch for day-to-day use.

Apple have been “picking Swatch’s brains” about their watch-construction methods but Swatch deny the idea of forming a partnership with them, especially concerning the iWatch idea that has been floating around. As well Swatch are trying to achieve the “best smartwatch” goal rather than being the first.

What I see of this is that the Swatch group are being the first of the Swiss watch legends to link their special craft with today’s smart-wearable technology development.

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Up, Up And Away with Android Wear

Article

Hacking the friendly skies: creating apps for wearables at 36,000 feet | Engadget

My Comments

There are some efforts taking place to make the wearable devices and sensors become relevant with air travel which is part of our business lives. This has been underscored by a recent “hackathon” programming contest sponsored by American Airlines to encourage the development of apps to bind wearables with the air travel experience.

The goal with this challenge was to make apps that are relevant to the passenger through the various phases of the experience i.e. checking in, passing through a security checkpoint, boarding the plane, flying using the newer inflight Wi-Fi system and having an Economy class seat as your workspace then arriving and collecting your luggage.

One application that won “first prize” in the challenge was a push-notification system that was able to let you and family / close friends know where you were in your air journey. Here, this could push messages to your phone or smartwatch or the device owned by your friend depending on where you are, and could show up electronic boarding passes as required. For your relative or friend, it would mean, for example, when to start driving out to the airport to pick you up. This application would be driven by GPS and iBeacon technology in order to get its bearings.

Another application that won the challenge was an “area social network” that applied to your flight. Here, this would tie in with Facebook and LinkedIn and the in-flight Wi-Fi to indicate whether you have “bumped in to” someone in your personal or business network by the fact that you are on the same plane. This could also work with groups that are likely to be “split up” due to travelling different classes on a long-haul jet or simply for solo travellers who are heading the same direction to do things like share cabs at the destination.

Someone even tendered a personalised proximity-signage setup which can show things like gate information for connecting flights or directions to a particular baggage carousel. I also see this application work with the hire-car scene by avoiding the need for drivers of these cars to show signboards relating to their pick-ups in the arrivals hall. This application assures privacy by deleting the information on the signs when you walk away from them.

Even the idea of travelling with your four-legged friend interstate or overseas by air on the same flight is catered for with a special collar that lets you know how they are. This could be augmented with a system that allows you to know how they are if you and the pet are on different transports once suitable technology is implemented as part of the “Internet of Things”.

This is a situation where innovation is taking place by encouraging situation-specific software development goals through programming challenges focusing on that situation.

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Android Wear–to make designing more and better wearables easier

Article

Google unveils Android Wear, its modified OS for wearables | Internet & Media – CNET News

From the horse’s mouth

Google – Android Wear team

Sharing What’s Up Our Sleeve: Android coming to wearables | Official Android Blog

Android Wear Developer Preview Now Available | Android Developers Blog

Promotional Video

Click to play (YouTube)

Developer Preview video

Click to play (YouTube)

My Comments

Google has just released Android Wear which is a version or “fork” of the Android mobile operating system that is pitched at the so-called “wearable” devices. But what do I see of this?

One advantage that I see of this is that manufacturers can focus on designing smartwatches and fitness bands without the need to work on the software for these devices. They could work on a brand-specific “overlay” which includes applications specific to a brand’s needs like what Samsung, Sony and HTC have done with their Android phones and tablets. But most other manufacturers like the traditional watch manufacturers can jump on the wearable bandwagon and focus on devices that look elegant and fashionable to wear. They can also work on shortcomings of the current designs such as short battery runtime (make it possible to wear a smartwatch for a night or weekend “elsewhere”).

For example, could a Swiss watch name or someone like Casio or Seiko, the doyens of the digital watches. find themselves able to clamber on to the smartwatch scene? Similarly, could we see that it is feasible to have the “ladies” and “gents” watches as well as smartwatches that are a perfect replacement for the traditional analogue or digital watch.

Another factor is software development. The Android Wear platform could appeal to software developers to write apps that work well on the wearable devices and see these targeted to many different devices. But, personally, I would like to see this focused on to “let-me-know” or “check-this” apps such as to show up messages from a messaging service, check the weather or “check in” on Foursquare. The fitness bands could work with health-and-wellness apps or similarly the “let-me-know” or “check-this” apps.

The third group of users that would benefit would be us consumers who could then find it easier to purchase a cost-effective smartwatch that we can impress others with at the office or on Friday or Saturday night. These will have as much a consistent user interface that can be worked by touch or voice thus not having to learn something new when you purchase a different Android Wear device.

As well, it also means that you don’t need to run multiple device-interface apps on your smartphone to have it work with different wearable devices like watches, Bluetooth headsets or fitness bands especially if you run multiple devices at the same time.

A question worth raising is whether these devices will have the “hub” capability promised in Bluetooth 4.1 where the watch can interact with other Bluetooth Low Energy (Bluetooth Smart) devices yet be able to upload and download data to a smartphone or tablet.  This could be of use if you decide to leave the smartphone behind while you go for that jog or swim and keep that FuelBand on you while you do that bit of exercise.

Personally, I would see this as a big break for wearables, especially smartwatches, and the Android platform. This could lead more so to innovation rather than imitation while the Android platform gains more traction as an “open-frame” mobile-device platform. In the same way, it extends the multi-screen concept between the smartphone and these watches this not having us bringing out our smartphones frequently.

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Internationaler Funkaustellung 2013

IFA LogoThis year’s Internationaler Funkaustellung has been about strengthening the personal IT space especially with the “phablet” smartphones, newer tablet-laptop hybrid computers and the smartwatch. Similarly, there has been some concerted activity in the living-room space with the 4K ultra-high-definition TV technology amongst other things.

Personal IT

Over the last year, the Android platform has gained ground with some very impressive mobile devices that have come through from Samsung, Sony, HTC and others. This has been underscored through various platform-exclusive features like an open development environment, the use of NFC “touch-and-go” functionality, large high-resolution screens amongst other features and one observer at Samsung’s “Unpacked 2” press event which was part of this show described the up-and-coming Apple iPhone 5S as being “fool’s gold”.

Smartphones

The rise of the “phablet”

Nearly every manufacturer is offering a “phablet” – a smartphone with a 5”-6.5” screen that is pitched as a bridge between a tablet and a regular handheld smartphone. These handheld devices, typically the size of one of the pocketable scientific or financial calculators exploit the large screen as a user interface feature yet can be held in one hand.

Samsung, who had launched the first of these devices and defined this product category through the Galaxy Note family, has launched the Galaxy Note 3 which is the third-generation. This Android 4.3 smartphone has a 5.7” Super AMOLED screen, the ability to film video in 4K UHDTV resolution with a 13 megapixel rear camera, 2.5Gb RAM, Wi-Fi connectivity that even reaches to the 802.11ac wireless segments amongst more desireable features.

Sony had fielded their “phablet” which is the 6.4” XPeria Z Ultra. Alcatel have fielded the “One Touch Hero” which has a 6” Full-HD screen, 2Gb RAM, 8 or 16Gb storage, 13 Megapixel rear camera / 2 Megapixel front camera and Android 4.2. It is able to come with accessories like an E-ink cover or a wireless-charging cover. Not to be missed, HTC have launched the One Max 6” Full-HD phablet.

Sony raises the bar for smartphone photography

Sony has launched the XPeria Z1 which has its rear camera able to be as good as a standalone compact “point-and-shoot” digital camera.

Similarly, they have sold two “lens-cameras” which clip on to and pair with most smartphones. These are cameras that have a proper lens structure equivalent to that of a digital camera but send the photos to the smartphone using their own Wi-Fi network that is created with the host phone. They will work with handler apps for both the iOS and Android platforms so you can get the pictures you took with them off the lens camera to your phone’s storage and on to Facebook. The QX10 has a fixed-focal-length prime lens while the QX100 has a 10x optical-zoom lens.

For Android users, these lens-cameras implement the NFC “touch-and-go” setup to reduce the hassle involved with getting them going.

Other smartphone products

Lenovo had tendered their first smartphone which was known as the Vibe X which is a 5” Android model.

Tablets and Notebooks

Rather than 7” and 10” tablets being focused on mobile operating platforms like iOS or Android. we are seeing some of the tablets in this size range being available to work with the up-and-coming Windows 8.1 operating system. These are becoming effectively like a regular computer that is pitched to the consumer rather than a “toy” or an “enterprise workflow / kiosk” tablet. As for the Windows-based computers, most of these will be released with Windows 8.1 from the factory or may allow you to upgrade to the operating system in October if it cam with Windows 8.

Even the connvertible tablet-notebook computers and the detachable keyboard “hybrid” tablets have finally grown up and been considered a valuable part of a person’s or business’s computing “arsenal”.

Different forms of convertible or detachable-keyboard tablets showing up

The convertible tablet-notebook computer grows up.

This class of device also is encompassing an increased range of convertible laptop-tablet computers of the 11”-13” size as well as 20” adaptive-all-in-one desktop-tablet computers answering the Sony VAIO Tap 20. What we are seeing here is that there are two paths for a primarily-touch-based computing experience – a unit with an ARM-based RISC processor that runs the Android operating system or a unit with an Intel-Architecture processor that runs the Windows 8.1 operating system.

Sony has taken another path for a convertible tablet which is known as the VAIO Fit Series. These 13” and 15” computers work in a similar manner to the Lenovo Yoga convertibles where they can fold the keyboard outwards to become a tablet. This hasn’t been seen as a way to displace the Duo slider-convertible design as shown with the VAIO Duo 11.. As well, Sony have launched the VAIO Tap 11 which is a Windows 8.1 tablet that uses a magnetic detachable keyboard and is claimed to be the world’s thinnest Windows 8 tablet coming in at 9.9mm thick. Like the Duo that I reviewed, this also implements the Full HD display which is said to be a benefit for photos and movies alike.

Lenovo have also pitched newer or refreshed computers in the Yoga and Flex lineup of convertible tablet-notebook computers. Infact Lenovo’s latest ThinkPad Yoga has given the convertible Ultrabook form-factor some “balls” by being something that can do most computing tasks very adeptly rather than being a second-rate performer. This is due to it being kitted out with some serious horsepower in the form of the Haswell graphics chipset and an i7 processor.

Acer have even provided the  the Aspire P3 Ultrabook which is an 11.6” detachable-keyboard tablet and has today’s expectations for performance and storage for this class of computer. They also have launched the Aspire R7 which is a 15” convertible in a similar vein to the Dell XPS 12 but uses a pedestal-type arm as the support for the screen and is one of the few 15” mainstream laptops to be in the form of a convertible touch-operated computer.

Samsung, not to be outdone had launched the Ativ Q which is a slider convertible tablet  with a variable angle. But this unit is a dual-boot design capable of being operated on Windows 8 or Android operating systems.

Regular tablet computers

Of course, Samsung have launched a regular 10” Android tablet in the form of the Galaxy Note 10.1 which is implementing the Android 4.3 operating system. Thomson have returned to the personal IT fold by releasing the TO7 and TO8 Android tablets which have four-core processors and IPS LCD screens and is amongst a number of personal computing equipment including a laptop computer.

The adaptive all-in-one takes hold

They also released the VAIO Tap 21 which is really a current-generation “refresh” of the previously-reviewed VAIO Tap 20. This machine has been answered by a few other “adaptive all-in-one” models including the Panasonic ToughPad UT-M85 which implements a 4K display.

HP have also taken another spin on the “adaptive all-in-one” design by releasing the Envy Recline series of all-in-one computers. These are like a regular all-in-one computer with the pedestal but can be laid flat to be like a tablet rather than the separate tablet with integrated kickstand.

Toshiba have also pitched their detachable-keyboard hybrid tablet answer to the HP X2 family with a Satellite 30t and a Satellite 30dt which will also be known as the Satellite Click. These will have a 13.1” display. There is also the Encore which is an 8” tablet kitted out with Windows 8.1. The Satellite (Pro) N810 family of subnotebooks will have touchscreen on some models but also will be kitted out with today’s laptop computing expectations.

The rise of the smartwatch

The digital watch of the 80s returns with a vengeance

During the time when “Footloose”, “Holiday”, “Flashdance…What A Feeling”, “The Reflex” and “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” were hot on the mix-tapes, or when the “A-Team” or “Knight Rider” were on the TV; the thing to be seen with on your wrist was a digital watch where the more functions it had, the better it was. Sometimes, you invoked curiosity and a bit more if you were seen “jabbing” side of that watch to “pull up” the various functions.

Now these digital watches have returned with a vengeance in the form of the smartwatch which Samsung, Sony and a few others were premiering. These watches use a touchscreen to switch between the functions which are presented in the form of apps that can be loaded to these watches. They work hand in glove with your smartphone or tablet by making use of a Bluetooth link, serving as an extension display and control surface for the mobile device.

Samsung’s watch is in the form of the Galaxy Gear which works with the Galaxy Note 3 phablet and Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet but there is expected to be a software update that will make it work with other Samsung Galaxy phones like the S3 and the S4. It uses a Super AMOLED touchscreen as its man control surface and has an integrated microphone, speaker and band-mounted camera. Its stainless-steel band doesn’t just come in the natural finish but in different colours.

For that matter, Qualcomm are selling the Toq smartwatch which has been described as a “spitting image” of the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch.

Sony had launched the second-generation of their smartwatch which is simply known as the “Smartwatch 2”. This doesn’t have the microphone, speaker or camera but can last for 4 days compared to 1 day with the Samsung before needing to be charged up. It also uses NFC-based “touch-and-go” setup and can work with most Android phones.

Digital cameras

The IFA also has been a chance for Sony to launch the DSC-RX100 II which is the successor to the ‘RX100, considered to be one of the top dogs when it came to small digital cameras.

For Sony, it also became the point to launch an API which allows Wi-Fi-based control of their Wi-Fi-capable digital cameras from computers, smartphones and tablets. This allowed for functionality such as remote shutter release / movie start-stop, remote viewfinder, exposure configuration and other photography aspects as well as the ability to download the images from your camera via the Wi-Fi network.

Sony has also mad 4K UHDTV digital videography affordable for the serious hobbyist or the small video studio who videos corporate, school or family events like weddings by offering a camcorder affordable to these kind of users’ pockets. This is in the form of the FDR-AX1 which has what is needed to get in to 4K recording. It uses XQD memory cards, a noninterchangeable 20x zoom lens and a 1/2.3″ sensor and records with the XAVC S codec which will be available down the line with most desktop-video software.

Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and NFC in the personal-technology space

NFC “touch-and-go” technology has become increasingly relevant as a data-transfer technology for personal health and wellbeing thanks to Plus Prevention. Here, they had released the TapCheck range of personal medical devices such as blood glucose meters, blood pressure monitors and a pedometer that can transfer their data to your NFC-capable Android smartphone which runs one of two companion apps. The data can be sent onwards via email or SMS to your health-care providers or family members. The goal that Plus Prevention had with these devices is that the technology is on a level playing field to be available to everybody.

As for the trend with small speakers for use with personal IT equipment, these either connect via Bluetooth as an A2DP Profile audio device or connect via the home network or, in some cases, a local Wi-Fi access point created by the speaker itself using Apple AirPlay or DLNA. Most, if not all, of the Bluetooth-enabled speakers will come with NFC “touch-and-go” paring and connection.

Another key trend is the emphasis on “app-cessories”. This is where a device that exhibits connectivity with a smartphone or tablet through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or even USB-wired exploits this connectivity through the use of a manufacturer-developed app. I will be covering this in the next article on Internationaler Funkaustellung 2013.

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Do you think we will end up with the smart watch on our wrists?

Article

Why You’ll End Up Wearing A Smart Watch | Gizmodo Australia

My Comments

With the increase in smart watches being developed by various companies including Google, Apple and Samsung, there has been optimism and doubt about whether we will start wearing these watches on our wrists.

What is the smart watch?

The smart watch is an extended-function watch that works with a smartphone as a wrist-based display for the phone. These watches are in a similar vein to the 1980s-era digital watch where the more functions it had, the more you could impress others with it. In a lot of cases, these functions served many practical uses like being able to time a process or log the duration of events like races.

It would tell the time using a customisable analogue or digital display but would be able to show up notifications from your smartphone. As well as being the clock, calendar, stopwatch and timer, it could also work as a remote control for your smartphone such as navigating the music that you are playing, selecting a contact to call or text or answering a call while you hear and talk to the caller via a Bluetooth headset. Another advantage that these would offer would be the ability for us to have a discreet glance at the watch if a message comes in on our phone.

Some doubters suggested that the smartwatch wouldn’t take off because of the fact that most young people don’t wear watches anymore. Instead they use the smartphone to tell the time or, if they have to have a watch, they would wear a quartz-driven dress watch. Of course, I would expect to see the smartwatch be considered as a wearable accessory to the smartphone and can evoke a level of curiosity from other people as we wear one of these watches just like it did with the digital watch.

What I would expect of the smartwatch would be to make use of Bluetooth 4.0 and similar technologies so it can run for at least 6 months on regular watch batteries. This is in addition to having a ladies’ form factor with similar functionality but appealing for the women to wear.

As well, it should be able to keep time independently of the host smartphone device yet use that device as a master clock for setting itself when initially started and when you cross time zones or whenever we change between standard time and daylight-saving time.

Personally, I would see these watches come on the scene as a viable practical mobile accessory for our phones rather than just a fashion accessory.

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