Wearables

8 Hours: Game Over

The Moto 360 was released this last week.  It is the first Android wearable that is slick enough to wear as something other than utilitarian.  It looks good, it's sexy, it looks quality.  I would be excited to wear this thing!

Unfortunately, it would appear that I can't.  From the tweets I've read, you need to take this thing off every 8 hours to charge it.

According to Ars, it has a 2010 OMAP 3!  From Ars:

The 2010-era processor is old, slow, inefficient, and power hungry. Couple that with a 320mAh battery and we get around half the runtime of other Android Wear devices.

This, unfortunately, is a show-stopper.

Day-to-day, I wear a Pebble.  One of the originals.  It has become integral to how I work and use my phone.  Simply put, it is difficult for me to be without it.

It allows me many freedoms.  I don't have to have notifications on my computer anymore and I can feel free to completely mute my phone.  It's silent alarm means I can set it for 0'dark-thirty for a trip cross-country without waking up my wife.  It is, plain and simple, an intimate, personal device in a way that a phone can never be.

It may not be beautiful and there are certainly times it drives me crazy (someone favorited all of my Instagram photos the other day... My watch vibrated for 30 minutes straight) but to even be useful it needs to be on my wrist.

If it's not useful, I'm not wearing it.

Do you know what's not useful?  Something you have to charge every 8 to 9 hours.  Which is really, really sad.  I was looking forward to this device.  It's beautiful and I would love a color screen.  But if I have to take it off all the time, it's game over.

Battery tech has long been acknowledged as mobile's achilles heel, but phones are large enough to put a multi-thousand mAH battery in.  Not so, wearables, they can only have tiny batteries.

So, in the end, unless someone gets crazy (I read someone recommending putting the battery in a watch's band) wearables are going to need to use the most power-efficient components possible.

Oh, and what's acceptable for a watch? 2 to 3 days of battery life, minimum.  24 hours doesn't cut it, since it's too risky that you're going to run out of juice when you're counting on it to wake you up.

Apple and Wearables

Apple had WWDC this week, and while WWDC is normally pretty eventful, this one was incredibly action packed.  From a redesign of OS X to a new programming language called Swift, there was something to delight everyone.  But if you want to read about that, you can find articles to your heart's content all over the web. What I'm more interested in is HealthKit (Apple's HealthKit, not these poor unfortunate soul's HealthKit), and with it a new push in advertising from Apple.

HealthKit is aiming to be a one-stop shop for a holistic look at your well-being

To summarize what HealthKit is, it allows you to collect in one place various pieces of information about your health.  From body stats, calories burned or eaten, blood sugar levels and blood pressure, to a place to store your medical records, HealthKit is aiming to be a one-stop shop for a holistic look at your well-being.

Along with the announcement of HealthKit, Apple put out a new marketing push which focuses on a healthy you, and how an iOS device can help you get there.  It urges folks to "shed the chicken fat" and get out and get active.  The whole ad is people doing stuff that looks healthy, even going so far as to show someone on a scale checking their weight on their iPhone and making a frowny face as they note that there weight is up.

Apple will aim to collect all of your health data into one place

Now, in the ad, Apple shows a bunch of apps that help track your health, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist or a @pmarca vision of the future to realize that with iOS 8, Apple will aim to collect all of your health data into one place:  HealthKit.  They even rolled out the features that will make it super easy to do, which are the new extensions and services.

Which leads to the question of when, not if, Apple will roll out their wearable, and what it will be?  You can certainly bank on it being a health device.  Apple wouldn't lay this much ground-work to not leverage it in some serious way.  You can also look at the tighter partnership with Nike, progenitor of the wildly successful and now defunct Fuel Band, to point to how they're going to enter that field.

But, I have to wonder at the timing.  Especially in light of Vlad Savov's recent post on wearables and calorie counting on The Verge, wherein he details that the field of health tracking devices are notoriously unreliable.  To summarize, none of these devices are terribly accurate, and when combined with the human proclivity to poorly estimate when it comes to counting calories, there's not a lot of reliability here.

If there's one thing Apple is well-known for, it's waiting to get it right

If there's one thing Apple is well-known for, it's waiting to get it right, and while my expectation is that Apple will release something this year, I wouldn't be surprised if they had a multi-staged rollout plan over a couple of years as they work to get it all exactly right.

So, when the iWatch, or whatever they'll call it, comes out this year, don't expect full functionality from the get-go.  It will do everything it needs to do now, but there will be a whole lot of unlocked potential in it that Apple will likely roll out in the coming year(s).

Wearables: What the Future Holds

Allow me to dream.  About the future, about our never-ending quest, as a human species, for health, and where we stand in that quest.

You step out in the morning for your daily run.  Perhaps it's spring in the Southeast, the mornings are cool, the pollen is thick in the air.  A bay is miles off, but its influence on your weather is unmistakable: temperate winters with evenly hot summers.

As always happens, your central unit is cataloging your every move.  Your shoes provide data, your light pants provide data, your shirt provides data, your watch provides data.  As you begin your 6 mile trek, your central unit processes not only your movement in terms of kinetics, but also in terms of absolute position upon the earth.  Your every stride is cataloged in terms of energy spent.

Your new eye contacts display the distance run, the time it's taken, your average pace.  You notice that you're a few seconds off your best, so you start pushing it.  Pretty quickly, your drenched in sweat, but your personal HUD tells you that you're on pace for a new personal record.  It's going to be a great day.

You dial up that latest music you've been listening to, or perhaps your favorite podcast (though, really, none of the kids now-a-days call them podcasts.  What an anachronistic term!).  All of this with a few quick flicks of your eyes in concert with your teeth and jaws.

And quickly, over the next hour, you bang out a personal best.  It feels good to be greeted to the sights and sounds of victory as you end your run.  It's pretty amazing to reflect on where technology has come from.

You leave your run and head in for breakfast.  As you eat, the implants in your teeth catalog your caloric intake, updating your daily nutritional log.  You check it quickly to see how you're doing at maintaining your weight, and you see you're doing well.  So long as you keep up the daily activity, you should be fine.

Once again, as you move through the house getting ready for work, the various sensors take stock of your movement, and what it means in terms of your daily health.  Even the small things are cataloged, not a movement is wasted.  You know, within 10 kilocalories, how much energy you've expended.

After you eat, the nano-network you have floating in your bloodstream goes to work checking that things are working well.  While each individual nanocite is pretty dumb, as a network, they can measure an almost perfect picture of your blood health.  They can catalog your insulin levels, your blood sugar levels, the number of lipids in your blood stream, so many things.

A few weeks ago, you were warned about a possible cold you had contracted.  Your doctor's office, the same place that all of your data is daily uploaded to on a regular basis, contacted you with a prescription for heading it off at the pass.  Luckily, you didn't have to suffer through it.

Of course, nano-networks need updating as new bugs are found and old bugs are retired, so you have to visit your doc every quarter or so for a new rendition.  Luckily, the rendition is taken via pill format, so not too bad.  They've been getting pretty good in the past few years, but there is still a long way to go.

As you head off to work, you reflect on what you know about yourself from technology at the age of 90.  Your able to monitor and assess your daily health with the input of the vast array of sensors that now adorn your body.  Your every caloric intake and energy expenditure is kept in balance.  You have an early warning system within your blood that can detect an incredible array of sicknesses.

You are the healthiest you've ever been.