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I will never use the word: “smartwatch” (after this post)

4 Apr

It seems silly to be excited by one of the most interesting news from the CES 2014: “Pebble comes in a metal case”. The silly part: level of appeal of the news is close to zero. The interesting part: everyone will have a smartwatch in 10 years from now. 10 years is a long time, as this wave seems will take longer than smartphones and tablets. But be sure: we will drop our watches for new devices… that will not be actual watches. sketch-concept

Smartphones are not phones, smartglasses are not glasses, nor smartphones and smartwatches are not wrist-mini-smartphones!

The fact that they will be anchored to your wrist is just misleading. The name is deceiving too, pointing to smart, as in smart-phone, and watch; we are in presence of another clueless name we give technology that we still cannot fully understand as we develop it.

Those devices will be a lot of things and they might even tell you the time (as smartphones can do calls, although it is the least used feature for most of us).

The Pebble is a very nice device, taking stocks of early adopters, and Samsung Gear was successful only in convincing us that a smartwatch should not be a mini-smartphone. A plethora of new products is getting ready to hit the stores, and there will be a market for most of them, but soon enough most of them look like the Nokia 7110 (released in 1999) or a Blackberry Pearl (2006) compared to an iPhone.

So how will this “iPhone” of smartwatches look like? Here are the three most promising areas, to me:

1) Health/fitness

FitbitFlexThe obvious, has an incredible amount of good cases, huge markets, huge money. That is a serious, ready to explode market. A space that ranges from cheap, always on health tracking for patients to hi-performing athletes… and everyone in between!

The hottest in this space has been FitBit for a while, now it is likely the new Samsung Gear Fit, and a lot is going on already including the rumored iWatch from Apple. But I look forward to Google too (Google Wear), hoping that, in their vision, they will put health before all other use cases (see Why Google Has the Best Shot at Making the Killer Smartwatch).

2) Identity/Authentication

The second most interesting area of development, apparently not yet in the main players plans is that of identity, and authentication. This is the case where our shiny device will allow us to enter the building where we we work, our home, unlock our phone and our computer, exchange contact information with an handshake, etc.). Maybe this could be the good response from Google to the iPhone fingerprint scanner authentication. Bionym, with their Nymi product seems to be already quite far in this game.

3) Payments

Isn’t payment the Holy Grail all the big names in tech are looking for? Can we continue to use credit/debit cards and RFID cards as we are using them now?

As soon as the previous Identity/Authentication area is mature, payments will follow. With cards we got rid of our wallet, with bracelets allowing for payments we can get rid of cards too, and we will (almost) never forget or lose them, since they are securely attached to our body.

From the experience perspective the possibility of paying for a coffee, a bus ride and a parking just by putting our wrist next to the payment sensor seems very appealing to me and actually the idea has been around for several years, but the recent progress in digital banking make me believe we are getting close. Let’s just hope the approach will be to build a pluggable system: nobody feels the need to carry N bracelets: one for the metro, one for the VISA, one for the parking, etc. Finally, in considering the experience, I hope the devices receiving the payment will also get a some love from designers.

Connecting the dots

Combine the features above a lot of possibilities open up: possibilities to dramatically improve our experience around our own health, identity and payments. At this point we also expect those devices to be highly pluggable and extendable with “apps”.

Looking at the characteristics of this device-we-have-around-our-wrist, what does it offers:

  • can be always with us

  • can be securely attached to our body

  • can detect movement, heart rate and more about our body

  • can be always on, day and night

  • can be used in almost any context: while doing almost any sport, dancing, in a meeting, …

  • can be used without looking to it, just but pointing, dropping it on a surface, shaking a hand, …

All in a really small device, offering space for a small screen or display. A device you do not want to recharge, because you do not want to remove it from your body. Ever.

Many manufacturers will try the right combination, there will be more failed experiments, more acquisitions, a lot more buzz, but its all coming our way and I really hope to see, very soon, a product with all four of the above: a single wristband (as you can see I am not using the “s word” anymore) that combines, with an app system, the following:

1) Health and fitness tracking

2) Authentication

3) Payments

Will the iWatch get there first, or maybe, and hopefully, will we see a new player lead this market?

 

Google Wow, an experience that amazes for real.

6 Feb

What if there were more artists working alongside engineers at Google? I think many products will be different, and better.

Why Google?

  1. Google is the most amazing company out there, building forward looking products like Google Now, and investing in crazy projects we all love to talk about (mostly coming from Google X), that will change our lives, and we hope for the better.
  2. Google strengths is, and has always been in its software engineers. I am myself more an engineer than an artist, for sure, but isn’t the combination of art and engineering the most explosive one? Leonardo da Vinci was born 69.2 km from my hometown (according to Google Maps), and I have always been obsessed by his all-encompassing genius.
A Google doodle

Engineering+Art in a Google doodle.

Today, I was watching again the Google 2013 I/O keynote when a phrase resonated in my mind: “We want you to build the most amazing, delightful experiences for your users…”. I closed the video, and closed the office, those word buzzing in my head: “I am all in for this, dear Google”.

As I was exiting the office I pull out my phone and magic happened again: Google Now is giving me, for the 4th time this week, my commute time, as if I was driving home. Problem is I do not drive home, I do not even have a car and, frankly, I find extremely annoying to know in advance if I will home be 15 minutes earlier or 15 minutes later than usual. What if, instead, I was late home, but for a good reason?

Google Now shows more cards: temperature and forecast. Boring. I am outside, I can feel the heat, and I look at the sky. Looking at the sky delights me, the Google card… not at all.

Finally, the last card, is telling me of the latest package arriving from Amazon: Google is parsing my emails, something powerful and scary: the end result is that I receive a notification, a text message, an email for my package… and Now, also got a nice card. Annoying. Seriously.

Nonetheless I do believe Now is the future of search, a beginning for a new interface, a great product already and it is constantly being improved.

But, what if there were more artists working alongside engineers at Google? Art is beauty, surprise, emotions, and also uselessness:  let’s take a different approach to Google Now: instead of trying to predict my next search, my usual need given the context, it could try to predict what will amaze and delight me! A very appropriate name for it would be Google Wow.

a Google card

A cool, surprising card, since I just arrived in Jamaica!

How would the cards look like?

I really like music, and discovering new artists, so a music card would, from time to time, push some new music at me, an album to discover, but not when I necessarily expect it.

And I really like good food. Google might know or not my tastes (and it probably does) in any case it could throw my way a card with some cool food in the area that I never tried (Google knows that too).

We can get a lot more creative I am sure:

  • Instead of my commute time showing me a nice destination to a far away country, with pictures, travel cost and and an excuse to go there.
  • Instead of the weather in my location the weather in a location where one of my friends is now travelling, and a reason to send him/her a message.
  • Instead of the Amazon package info, a friend who just opened Google Now nearby so we can go get a beer together and be both late home.
Feeling Lucky?

Feeling Lucky?

From “feeling lucky” to “getting lucky“!

Can serendipity be designed into an experience? What if there was some randomness, a push to get outside our usual path and habits, actually giving us the habit of being more open, try more things, meet more people and ultimately get lucky for real?

 
Post inspired by:

What should NEST build next? An alarm clock, please.

19 Jan
What should Nest build next?

Alarm Clock + Nest = Love

Just a few hours after the announcement of the acquisition by Google, designers and experts worldwide were tweeting and blogging, as usual: there is no time to loose when a news hits worldwide geekness. @jonathanstark was asking the question on Twitter: What should Nest build NEXT? and the usual locks, fridge controller, etc. came out. Now, if there is something I have personally learned from Nest is that when of the smart/connected home you do not have to think of new&crazy appliances (like the home automation fans, and the industry have been doing for years): start by re-imagining the old and basic like a thermostat, and a smoke detector!

Nest has proven this is possible, valuable, and a lot easier to sell.

So what shall Nest build next? An alarm clock, I say. Yes, that old device that is currently being put out of existence by our phones.  I believe the alarm clock has its place in our homes, should get along with our phones, and with the other devices in the house. I do not have a fancy, appropriate name for this Nest Alarm Clock, but here is how it might work:

“It is finally time to go to bed, I play one last time with my phone, adjust the time I want to wake up and drop the phone on the dock of the (Nest) Alarm Clock. The small appliance looks great, Dieter Rams is proud of it. The Alarm Clock syncs with the phone’s alarm clock data, it will charge the phone during the night, then wake me up with its crystal-clear sound using the sound or tune I setup in my phone. I sincerely love its soft-lit big button to snooze it, when slowly awakening. Time to get up, alas: I remove the (fully charged) phone from the dock and the alarm stops, this time for real.”

Nice, lovely product: it will also filter calls, messages and notifications during the night, automagically letting through only certain numbers or alerts, using its night-friendly display to pop up the notifications and calls, and of course the time and, why not, the temperature maybe. Wait, what?

Sure, if you have a Nest Thermostat it will get along with the Alarm Clock, exchange data to improve temperature settings, and more. Obviously, do not forget to connect it with the Nest Protect: should the alert trigger, the Alarm Clock will convey, as gently as possible, the message that yes, there might be a serious problem and you must get up, now!

Finally, you can ask it (her?) to track your sleep too, and it might post your achievements to Google+ without you knowing, but wouldn’t you buy the Nest Alarm Clock right away?

I would.

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