Is Google Joining the Smart Watch Race?

 
on March 22 2013 12:14 PM

While Nick Hayek, chief executive of Swiss watchmaker Swatch (SWGAY.PK), told Bloomberg earlier this month that he did not believe that smart timepieces would be the “next revolution,” there is no denying that technology feels otherwise.

If there is any indication that technology will be soon be wearable, it is Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Glass project. From developing unmanned cars to mapping the world with photographs, the Silicon Valley company has always pushed into new territories. It makes sense then that the company could find a way for people to bring the Internet with them, and even mesh it into reality, which is what Google Glass is aiming to accomplish. The project is a sure sign that Google is moving from the digital world to the physical world.

Technology companies from Google to Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) to Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) are submitting patents to make their creations wearable. And, if rumors are any indication, the first battlefield in that arena will be the watch.

A recent report from The Financial Times described Google’s plan. A patent application for a wearable computer filed by the company in 2011 and approved last year gives support to the circulating rumors. Seen by the publication, the filing outlined a device that could be termed a smart watch; the design boosts dual-screened “flip-up display,” a “tactile user interface,” and a camera. While Google Glass is coming to life in the company’s X Lab, home to projects like the unmanned car, the smart watch is being developed by its Android unit in order to make use of that mobile operating system.

“A variety of portable user devices provide wireless network connectivity,” stated the patent literature, referring to the smartphone. “Various features of a device often require a user to access the device at inconvenient times to perform a desired function. As a result, a user may simply not employ the device to its full capabilities.” The main argument for creating a smart watch is explained in those few lines; with a device strapped to a wrist, there would be no need to pull out a larger device to complete simple tasks, like check the time or find directions.

The advent of personal assistant services like Apple’s Siri, over even Google Now, which uses web search history, location data, and other inputs to make suggestions without users needing to type queries, further expands the utility of such a device. The only question is whether battery life can keep up.

It is not that there have never been technologically advanced watches before — currently Nike’s (NYSE:NKE) Fuelband, which tracks daily activity, is the best-known — but never before have wearable accessories so closely approximated high-functioning computing devices.

Apple’s iWatch plans are still nothing but the predictions of analysts, but Samsung (SSNLF.PK) has fully committed. “We’ve been preparing the watch product for so long,” Lee Young Hee, executive vice president of Samsung’s mobile business, said earlier this week during an interview with Bloomberg in Seoul.

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