Patronized by Seiko (Japan), smart watches have been in existence for around three decades. Early versions of smart watches allowed a user to feed data, view different time zones, and perform basic calculation. The next generation of smart watches incorporated GPS and a host of other wireless sensor features, including thermometer, compass, altimeter, barometer, camera and accelerometer. Several combinations of these features were developed to attract a specific set of consumers.
However, it seems that these types of smart watches are running out of fuel to lure consumers. The reason for this is the on-going outburst of smart portable devices, primarily smart phones and tablets. Now that it has become possible to miniaturize a host of electronic devices, watch manufacturers are tempted to transform smart watches to wearable computing devices.
Several features of smart phones can be made compatible so that they can be offered in the next generation of smart watches. Already firms such as Pebble and WIMM One (now part of Google) have made a name for themselves by introducing smart watches that can communicate with a user’s phone via the Bluetooth option. The ability to notify the user of an incoming call and display sms straight on the watch screen are touted as favourable features.
The next logical move will be to incorporate some form of transparent display screen in a smart watch through which a user can scan a product to receive real time information. Pedestrian navigation can also lead the way to imbibe augmented reality features in the next generation of smart watches. In this context, Google has already filed a patent for a transparent flip cover for smart watches to achieve such a feat. However, at present there is no certainty over the commercial availability of such a device.
So what is really on offer now?
For the time being, technology firms are finding value in introducing smartphone connected smart watches. In 2013 there were three prominent launches including Samsung Galaxy Gear, Sony SmartWatch and Qualcomm Toq.
The start-up space will also be equally important to watch out for, given the existence of crowd-funding platforms, such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo. While PH Technical Labs (funded through Kickstarter) is set to launch its HOT watch, Kreyos (funded through Indiegogo) will be launching its Meteor brand of smart watch – both during the first half of 2014. Gesture control features, receiving and rejecting calls, sending sms and receiving real-time notifications are becoming standard features for these types of interactive smart watches.
So how competitive is the market and whether the product can be mass produced?
As a matter of fact, the global market has already become so highly competitive that firms such as MetaWatch is taking time to launch its Meta smart watch in the latter half of 2014. By that time, the firm will ensure to grab a competitive advantage over its peers by moving beyond plastic bodies and offering dual hinge leather strap design.
Pricing pressure will also push up the innovative efforts in this space to come up with novel features in a timepiece. Bigger firms like Samsung, Google and Apple will also be expected to utilize their mass marketing potential to offer competitively priced products in a market where a consumer can buy an interactive smart watch in the range of US$150 to US$300.
Separately, the race to commercialize an interactive smart watch with unique features is eminent as combined efforts from smart watch manufacturers worldwide do indicate the fact that globally in 2014 smart watches are expected to be sold in millions. Hence, interactive smart watches are likely to follow the suit of smartphones and can be expected to become a supplementary option for tech-savvy individuals looking out for portability and convenience in their personal gadgets.
This article was written by Shauvik Haldar, Senior Analyst with DART Consulting.