From Portable to Wearable: The Possible Future of Mobility

From Portable to Wearable: The Possible Future of Mobility
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An interesting article on Apple Insider on the verge of this new year discusses the possibility of Apple building wearable computers as long term replacement for the iPhone. While being high unlikely at the short term, mainly because of the current Apple iPhone positioning, the idea is interesting. Siri’s voice control, screens in glasses, augmented reality or projectors can make the emergence of such portables devices a reality. These devices could take the shape of Watches, Clothes, Shoes, Belts, Bracelets, etc.

MW_DEV_3Q_051812LR_grandeApple showcases the MetaWatch which: “is a 3ATM water resistant smartwatch designed to compliment your smartphone and give you HANDS FREEDOM™. Supporting a Dual-Mode Bluetooth connection to your iPhone 4s, or Android smartphone, you can check messages, see who’s calling, control music, view weather, and more, all from your wrist.”

Sony also sells an Android compatible wrist watch called Sony SmartWatch. It must be paired with an Android phone as an additional, remote display and notification tool.

The fitness area seems to be a fertile ground for the emergence of a whole galaxy of tracking devices that report human activities and health conditions. Misfit Wearable was recently profiled in an MIT Review article highlighting its simplicity.  “Misfit Shine is an elegant, all-metal activity tracker that you can sync with your smartphone just by placing it on your phone screen. Find out how active you are every day, and set goals to become more active. Wear it how you want, wherever you want. There’s no cables, no bluetooth pairing, no charging stations – just an easily replaceable battery that lasts about six months.”

The CES show in Las Vegas next week will likely provide another insight on the array of new wearable computers options. Underneath, the Motorola Golden-i Head-Mounted Wearable PC at the 2012 CES.

In the military arena, the use of wearable computer devices was considered in former US Future Force Warrior concept as part of the the Nett Warrior program, that was put on hold in 2011. The Dod recentred the wearable computer concept around Smartphones and mobility. The use augmented reality and head up vision seems to be the main direction now. Last july 2012, recently, Vuzix, which produces a headset that’s very similar to Google Glass, has already won a contract to equip US Army soldiers with the M100 Smart Glasses:

” Vuzix received phase I of a multiphase development contract, from the US Army RDECOM CERDEC, Night Vision and Electronics Sensors Directorate, for the development of a wide field of view See Through Waveguide (“STWG”) for potential use in helmet mounted queuing systems and other head mounted display applications. The contract is to explore the possibility of supporting waveguide optics with fields of view in excess of 50 degrees and with a path to full color operation.”

Last but least, Google will soon start sending the first round of augmented reality Google Glass devices to developers at $1,500 unit price. The consumer version is expected in 2014. In a interview to IEEE Spectrum, Babak Parviz, who’s heading up the Google Glass project, describes the main goal of the project as about bringing the visual to social computing. It’s about allowing people to connect to others with images or video.

More amazing, is the description given by Rod Furlan of the IEEE Spectrum about the potential use of the Google Glasses: “the greatest value [of Glass] will be in second-generation applications that provide total recall and augmented cognition. Imagine being able to call up (and share) everything you have ever seen, or read the transcripts for every conversation you ever had, alongside the names and faces of everyone you ever met. Imagine having supplemental contextual information relayed to you automatically so you could win any argument or impress your date.

This probably goes even beyond the notion of end of the privacy in this connected world. Should we start talking about a future over-exposure if all what is seen and said will be recorded, indexed and analyzed?

Originally, the core business value of communications was held by the telecom operator’s carrier infrastructures; just about the cost of calling Tokyo 10 years ago. Then IP communications destroyed this monopoly and led the core business value to shift to on-line services, leading phone companies to cap the data usage and charge anything overt it. Interestingly, last years the core business value shifted to cell phone manufacturers such as Apple, Samsung and Google. Their application platform and a large pool of developers provided the required critical mass of applications to make a difference and kill the Blackberry’s and the Nokia’s of the world.

Presumably, the next decade will be about reconnecting with the on-line Internet services and use all their data-mining, customized results to deliver a continuous hyper-connected augmented reality experience to any one on the move. Once again, when a certain form of standardization will reach the Smartphone and Wearable computers devices, the core business value will shift back to online services again where the added value is really located.

The failure of Apple’s map application is probably one of the most interesting proofs that not everyone can provide overnight reliable on-line services, even when outsourcing them to a specialized third party (to Tom Tom in this case). The problem is that the future is on-line and besides iTunes, Apple’s footprint there is weak.

I discussed some of these questions in a previous article: The Next IT: A Preview of Tomorrows Innovations and Challenges. This article discussed possible future Information Technology innovations based on current trends. I presented there, three concepts that will likely shape future services and impact corporations, markets and societies: Hyper-Connectivity, Social/Semantic Web, Saas/Cloud computing and Micro-eEconomy.

Photo Credits: Google+  Project Glass: A picture taken by a person wearing Google Glasses.