I have been silent in blogging these last couple of weeks because I have been on vacation and unplugged. Ha, ha, no, of course not. I have been on vacation, still plugged and couldn’t be bothered writing any posts. That hasn’t stopped me thinking.
What I thought about a lot was my wrist. Basically, during this vacation it became overloaded. We went to DisneyWorld and we given MagicBands to wear for our time there. A MagicBand is a band with Bluetooth and RF technology in it. You use it to get into your room, buy things and to utilise FastPasses on Disney rides. There are two sorts of MagicBand. There are grey generic ones and there are coloured ones. As you go around DisneyWorld you can see some families in all grey and others with colours. Ours had colours and so we felt superior to the ones in grey. Why? Because you only got coloured ones if you went to the Disney website before arrival and selected them. Those ones came in a box and had your names on them. So when I saw a grey family (I suspect from the Abnegation tribe), I knew they were not tech savvy. (Of course, I had a grey band but that was by choice and I hung out with a colourful group so could feel the superiority). Some grey families released their inferiority and bought little things to stick to their bands but really there was no true social mobility once you had arrived.
Social status aside, the bands worked really well. We had no trouble with them anywhere. This has to be considered a modern miracle. We could also use an app to plan FastPasses — so no more running to a ride and trying to schedule these things up. It could all be done from the phone. Again, it all worked.
But it all suggested something important to me about wearables — the new category in electronics. I had my MagicBand on my right hand because my left hand was full. It had my Pebble (of course) and also my Fitbit Force (used for fitness tracking). There was no room for more and frankly, had it not been for my colour superiority, I would have felt silly walking around with wearables on both arms (in short Florida sleeves). My point is that real estate is scarce here.
It is also of variable quality. During the trip, I developed the Fitbit Force rash which occurred because the charging outlet touched my skin. After a couple of months of continual use, something changed and the rash developed. It has been with me for a week and a half so I have abandoned the Fitbit. At the same time, two others in our family were wearing Fitbit flexes. Feeling cocky, given that the MagicBands were waterproof, they swam with them and they died. So we all switched to Jawbone (which does a nicer job of tracking my sleep and caffeine intake). So wearables really will face a design limitation when it comes to what touches the skin for extended periods of time.
[By the way, you might be thinking: why is he bothering with the fitness tracker at Disney? I’ll tell you why, it is because I was at Disney. I was (a) eating a ton of crap and (b) doing a ton of walking. Knowledge of how far I walked made me feel better about the crap. And the result: the famed ‘weight neutrality’ outcome. I took no more in the US than I brought in].
I think there is a case to be made for only on device being attached to one wrist. That means that the competition for that real estate is going to be intense and far reaching. For instance, are you really going to wear a cheap fitness tracker on the same wrist as a $20K Rolex? If not, then Rolex actually faces competition from these products.
What this means is that: (a) the fitness tracker, watch and any other smarts you want will have to work from one band; (b) there will have to be a routine charging solution built in; (c) it can’t be too big; and (d) it will have to connect to the Internet and your mobile device for notifications, Siri like interactivity and perhaps as some sort of remote. Google released some new Android software that may take care of (a) and (d) but I’m not sure about the rest. Apple is supposedly working on an iWatch.
Given these constraints, I think it is important to separate the band from the watch-like device. The band will include all the fitness and health tracking stuff as well as a vibration feature (much like my Jawbone Up or the MagicBand). The watch part can be affixed to it and will be removed. The idea is that you don’t need to put it on your wrist will exercising or take it at all. Nor would you wear it to bed. Indeed, there you would take your watch part, dock it and it would act as an alarm clock while getting charged each night. Hence, charging would be built into the routine; the same routine you follow every day. Then once charged, it can also charge the band when affixed again. Apple can sell the bands and watch in different sizes for different needs.
Thusfar, no device economises on real estate but you have got to imagine that that is the real constraint. I think the first one that does so in a good way will lead the market.