Smarty pants

08 Sep 2013

There’s a lot about smart watches in the news at the moment. I’ve been watching (pun intended) and waiting: I’m on the lookout for a smart button, not a smart watch.

The idea of one more device with an operating system, requiring upgrades, settings tinkering and constant checking of the battery level is offputting. I don’t want features on my wrist. I don’t want a glowing screen, although an e-ink one might do. Apart from anything else, I’ve got really puny computer programmer arms and these devices are all too bulky.

I do like the idea of wearable computing. A watch that talks Bluetooth to the computer I already have in my pocket can provide input and output: the input doesn’t have to be voice recognition or a touchscreen, though, and the output doesn’t have to have pixels.

A watch that piggy-backed onto my phone’s connection and made an http request to a URL of my choosing would have nearly endless possibilities. I can easily imagine a sort of time-dependent if-this-then-that listening at the other end. Button press between 1715 and 1800 on a weekday? Send a message to the missus: I’m leaving work now. Next button press, when my geolocation is within a quarter of a mile from home: open the garage door. Middle of the night and everybody’s home? Release the hounds!

There are situations when it takes too long to use a touchscreen. Taking off your gloves and backpack, swiping to unlock, entering a pass code, scrolling through rows of icons - I’d rather just open the garage door myself.

I’ve seen one prototype product recently that aims to address this, to an extent: Pressy. Available for Android only, this ingenious device uses an existing input on phones to solve the problem.

A smart watch that did so wouldn’t need an operating system. With low power Bluetooth, it could have a battery life of months, certainly many days.

If my phone also unlocked itself when in close proximity to the watch, that’d be nice. Perhaps a little indicator to show the result of a web call, too. I could rig that to indicate whatever I liked (unread message from a particular person, for example).

Round-up of currently-available smartwatches

Tags: idea, watch