When the first watches appeared during the 18th century people met it with distrust. It stuck people as odd to wear time on the body. The emergence of the first writs watches during the early stages of the 20th century, didn’t have it much easier, although gave the owner an aura of authority and efficiency. Providing them with a sense of being in control during times that were turbulent, dangerous and requite efficiency. Then as now, the watch is a representation of the individual, their status in society, their personal brand but also a symbol of the modern age.
Today, a persons choice of clothing, from the colour of their shirt or skirt down to the details in their accessories (whether it be a scarf, tie, handbag or the brand of watch they are wearing), influencing what we think of them. It leaves an immediate and intimate impression of who they are and what they value. As such, it is no accident that we associate a Rolex owner as someone who has achieved something their life. The Rolex is a symbol of reward, a form of subconscious communication, and eudaimonic happiness. Similarly, the Patek Philippe man is a connoisseur, perfectionist and holds himself as well as others to high standards. Thus, a watch is much more than just a simple device, it is a personal statement that taps into a persons inner psyche and reflects their self.
So what does a smartwatch say about an individual? What makes it an intimate device? What makes this device a competitor to the traditional watch? And what is its use? These are just some of the question that many individuals have been asking themselves for the past couple of years.
The Case for Style:
“A watch is sold as something very private, very personal but is always on public display” — Robert Levine
What Android Wear failed to achieve thus far and Apple appears to create is the fruitful union of fashion and technology. Apple seems to have successfully tapped into the ideal that the watch, and by proxy the smartwatch, is a very intimate and personal device; reflecting our personality, style and core values. Engaging our fundamental wish to be our own person, to break free of the heard and letting the “Elephant” take over. Through small tweaks, Apple has managed to create a product that tugs at the emotional heartstrings, engaging our desire for communication, intimacy and personal reflection with a cold piece of glass and metal. This has not be the first time that company has married the useful with the emotional and stylish (case in point: when it introduced the original MacBook in 1999) and it is likely to not be the last. As such, it should not come as a surprise that Apple has not created a monolithic device but rather a set of modular options giving customers the ability to personalise their “watch” both aesthetically and functionally. There appear to be 3 core ideas that the smartwatch and particularly Apple Watch has managed to address that may or may not make or break the market.
Personalisation is key. With the watch, Apple has launched a personal fashion accessory that is far more visible than a phone or table. As such, the product needs to reflect a wide variety of individual user needs, profiles and preferences (reflected in the price, size, materials, straps and watch face customisability). While, Android Wear and Pebble were the first to market, creating functional devices, they lacked style, personality and lust. Both ecosystems have now come to realise that individualism is the key in merging the aesthetics with the functional and tapping into the subconscious of the consumer, engaging sensory and emotional stimulation.
Health. Healthcare is a massive industry, one that keeps growing through customers desire for a healthier lifestyle and the ability to track and evaluate their activity. The health monitoring space, pioneered by brands like Jawbone Up, Nike Fuelband and Fitbit, opens unparalleled access and real time health information about patients and is likely to have lasting effects on healthcare and prevention medicine. Furthermore, if done correctly, health monitoring technologies have the ability to transform habits and improve the quality of life for all individuals, potentially resulting in decreased healthcare costs and a healthier more productive population. Lastly, as Rahul Kabra points out in his article on “Improving the lives of Elderly Citizens;“ smartwatch capabilities have the possibility of greatly improving the safety, quality of lives and happiness of elderly individuals.
Home and the App Ecosystem. In many instances, Google and Apple are betting that the smartwatch will become the remote control for the home of the future. The rise of the “Internet of Things,” Apple’s “HomeKit,” Google’s “Works with Nest” will enable developers and third-parties to produce devices or applications that will be able customers to control devices within their home, greatly improving efficiency and home-security. Some devices already enable customers to control thermostats, garage doors, video entryphones, control baby monitors and open car and house doors or communicate with your oven. This in combination with the vast App Ecosystem that exists within the Google and Apple universe is likely to greatly change the way in with we interact and use products in our house or home.
Now, stay with me for this next section it is a bit out there and completely different from my previous writing. Imagine it is 6pm you are at office packing up after a long day at work. You watch buzzes and informs you that your fridge has noticed that the milk, yogurt and cheese have expired, furthermore, your fridge internal scale has noticed that you are almost out of fish and almost not vegetables left. Your smartwatch, drawing on your previous purchase history from Instacart (same day grocery delivery service in many US urban areas such as San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles and others), the data provided by your fridge and the processing power in your “Home” App, has already created your new order on Instacart asking you to confirm or adjust the order. On your way to the Tube or Metro, your smartwatch informs you that there is an issue with your usual rout and provides you with alternatives. Half your washing machiene, based on your ETA, has adjusted its washing cycle to reduce energy consumption and perfectly time your arrival with the end of the load.
You arrive home, tap you smartwatch against your NFC-enabled doorlock and enter the house. Having noticed your arrival, the lamps in the foyer have illuminated to your preferred setting, the thermostat has adjusted form eco mode to just the right temperature, based on your heat rate and body temperature. You receive a notification from Instacart that your grocery delivery will arrive in 40 minutes but your watch gives you the option to push the delivery by up to 1 hour. As you make your way to the laundry room to move the clothes into the dryer the lights turn on or off depending on where in your house you are located due to iBeacon technology. Finally, as the doorbell rings, a glace at your watch informs you that it is the delivery guy from Instacart.
After taking care of the groceries you head to the living room and sit on the couch, your watch, in combination with your DVR gives you the option to start the latest episode of your favourite TV show. Knowing you hate advertisements, your watch fast-forwards through the advertisements, while your smart-tv pauses the show as it notices that you got up to leave the room because your stove has just informed you that the pasta is done.
After dinner your watch reminds you of drinks with your co-workers, adjusting your travel time due to traffic information. Upstairs, your smart closet offers you a selection of clothes, based on the people you are meeting with, the weather forecast and the venue. Half-way through the night your watch reminds your that you have a light day tomorrow and don’t need to head home early. As you head out to leave the bar your Uber is already waiting outside because your smartwatch has realized that you would rather take an Uber than public transport.
To wind up.
Now, I am going to be honest with you, I am a sceptic at best. I didn’t understand the hype of the smartwatch when Pebble introduced its watch, nor when Google announced Android Wear. I began to saw the potential when Apple introduced the watch mostly because it wasn’t totally ugly. It has potential but is lacking a certain “Joie de Vivre”. Apple has taken the first set in enabling consumers to turn the smartwatch, physically, into a truly personal device. There is a great potential that rest within the smartwatch, whether it be personalisation or making life easier. However, the smartwatch technology is in its infancy and still has a long way to go. Apple has made the first step in making the technology sexy, fashionable and has begun to make a case as to why we need a piece of technology on our wrist that is, lets face it, outdated before it has even hits stores. But the potential is there and it will be interesting to what extend fashion companies and technology companies will be able to marry beauty and design.
A special thanks to the following articles for providing the background and inspiration to the work.