BI and Tech

Wearable Technology and the Apple Watch

Wearable Technology has been around for a long time. The pocket watch was invented over 500 years ago and rapidly became a prized possession.

Today’s equivalent is the smart phone. In the UK 75% of the population own a smart phone and this figure will only increase in the future.

If we look to TV and film there are many examples of where technology has been invented without modern constraints.

Back in the 80's Michael Knight could tap on his wrist watch, talk to his car and ask it (KITT) to perform a series of complex calculations, such as launching an ejector seat, while moving at 60 mph, so that he landed perfectly on the roof of a 10 storey building on the hit show Knightrider.

Saving the day was easy with KITT!  Let’s forget that this was the 1980s when we rode BMXs and had a digital watch that you could only read if the sun wasn’t shining too brightly on a cloudless day. 

We now have the internet, Bluetooth connections, GPS, and phones that are constantly connected to the telephone network. 

We carry smart devices connected magically to even smarter networks, putting us in touch with a sea of data.  We can be Michael Knight. We can save the day.

Let’s not prime our ejector seats just yet though, let’s first imagine for a moment what we could do and how it could help businesses effect real change. What if our gadgets could interact with and provide details relative to our physical environment?

As product director for the business intelligence software company Panintelligence, I spend a lot of time on-site visiting customers.

As I approach a customer’s premises I want to know what their spend has been in the last 3 months and how this compares to the same period last year.

I want to know if we have any outstanding complaints. I want to know what version of BI software they are currently using and when it was last updated.

Whilst in a meeting with them I want to be alerted if a critical problem arises. But I also want to be alerted in a discreet manner that allows me to choose whether to break out of the meeting or stay in the room. There are a number of devices that are making this possible.

Smart Phones

The mobile phone has become a global success, and the smart phone is an important device because it combines a number of very useful functions:

  • Phone
  • Email
  • Internet connectivity
  • GPS \ Compass
  • Data storage
  • Camera

This is combined with a choice of apps that allow you to create a device that is tailored to your unique requirements. The smart phone is here to stay.

It is so powerful because it added useful technology to an existing core need - the telephone.  It replaced the need for multiple devices whilst on the move.

Smart Watch

  • Time
  • Access to phone
  • Alert driven
  • Customisable
  • Tactile feedback
  • Discreet
  • Fitness and health tracking – Bio Data

The smart watch offers something new. It interacts with existing technology and distils the information into an alert driven approach via notifications.

The most interesting opportunities that could make the smart watch as synonymous as smart phones are alerts and bio data.

While smart phones have a number of apps for fitness the smart watch can take this one step further as it is in contact with the wearer’s skin.

Imagine if the smart watch could monitor the heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar of the wearer.

The potential it has to transform the lives of those with long term health conditions, such as heart problems and diabetes, is staggering.

Imagine if the smart watch recorded information every few minutes and this data was sent back to healthcare professionals.

Combining the data with business intelligence software would enable the early identification of trends, allowing healthcare professionals to take action proactively.

With the exception of a blood glucose sensor, which is rumoured to be in development by Apple, all of this is possible.

Business intelligence software should provide real time, alert driven data directly to the right decision makers. Wearable technology and business intelligence are a perfect match.

The potential impact of smart watches on the healthcare industry is enormous.

What are the challenges of wearable technology?

Battery life and current trends

The exact battery life of the Apple Watch has not been released, but Apple CEO Tim Cook has indicated that it will require charging every day.

Very few young people wear watches and they rely on their smart phones for many things with telling the time somewhere towards the bottom of the list.

Persuading generations of young people to start wearing a watch again is a challenge that Apple are hoping to combat with it being designed as a fashion item, with two sizes and many styles and price options to suit individual taste and budget.

Size

Smart phones have increased in size over the last few years, whereas a smart watch by necessity is quite small.

Its physical size limits how much it can show at once, so it might be a case of too much data and not enough physical real estate.

Adoption

Android smart watches have been available for some time now but they have not had a significant impact on the market.

On April 10th analysts will be watching very closely to see the impact the Apple Watch has on the market. This is also the first new piece of technology launched by the tech giant in a post-Jobs era, making it a significant moment in the history of the company.

While the legions of Apple fans will, no doubt, rush out to buy the Apple Watch it remains to be seen if everyone else will be convinced and if wearable tech will become as common as smart phones, or whether it will shuffle off into the shadows like the Google Glass.

I, for one, believe that saving the day is getting easier. In a few months I expect to be sat in meetings, streaming relevant information discretely onto my new smart watch, since KITT is not a reality. Not yet anyway.

About the Author

Ken Miller Ken has been working with Business Intelligence products for 20 years and has spent the last 10 years developing new applications to help businesses gain insight from their data. In his spare time Ken enjoys swimming and surfing in the North Sea.