Both Google and Apple are entering the smartwatch market: Google with the operating system “Google Wear”, Apple with a custom iOS version and the corresponding hardware. This will be the first serious attempts to establish this new market. Initially, the key application are fitness, social networks and the controlling of apps. But why shouldn’t smartwatches be used also in the industrial sector – similar to phones and tablets?
People talk to their Watches
Once again, we have to get used to something new: to people who talk to their wristwatches. Google has reduced its Android operating system to be used on such small devices. The corresponding watches are already available from two Korean manufacturers: the G Watch from LG and the Gear Live from Samsung. A model from Motorola is to follow; also, Asus has announced a new watch.
The approach that Google has chosen is interesting. The watches are not independent units, but additional displays for smartphones. Hence, it is not about to replace the phones, but to gain an additional benefit: the speed and ease of access to the main apps. Also it is to be taken into account that the already existing smartwatches with much more functions were not a major breakthrough so far, mainly because of the still slow hardware.
What the devices can do, they do well, and they are fast enough. Mainly they have to display messages and data from apps, such as information about health. Vice versa, it is possible to initiate actions by speaking to the watch. In this way, people can make notes, enter appointments, use the navigation or start apps on the phone. What the models cannot do, they simply don’t do, such as phone calls. And without a Bluetooth 4.0 (low energy) phone available within about 10 meters they are just simple digital watches. It is also not intended that manufacturers offer their own user interfaces, as is usual with Android phones.
The concept of Apple is still largely unknown. But of course they also want to enter the new market, and are probably already preparing a hardware production. It is likely that the functionality will not lag behind the Android devices. That they also have good software with a perfect usability is well known. In any case, they will not miss the new business opportunity, especially in the health and in the home area. The new version 8 of iOS is already prepared for this.
Smartwatches in the Industrial Area
Concerning the usage of smartwatches in the industrial area, many applications are possible – similar to phones and tablets. The main areas are the repair of machines and the display of key data from the production.
Let us take an example for the last point: the task is to display data about tool changes and downtime. Such data are generated from the measurement and production equipment at the line and are usually written into a database where they are available for evaluation. It then only requires an app on a phone or tablet that performs the evaluations.
The results are displayed on the smartwatch, together with a warning if the downtime exceeds a threshold or the tools are delivered to late. For this, the use of a smartwatch is in fact the fastest and easiest way to monitor those data and to initiate reactions if necessary. No digging for the phone in any pocket and no annoying search for the tablet that was once again forgotten nobody knows where. The watch is always available and ready to work immediately.
Okay, the functions of the current smartwatch models for industrial purposes may seem somewhat rudimentary. For example, the interaction with the apps is still poor, and especially the dependence on the smartphone is probably a hindrance in a factory. But this is not the end of the development. At the moment it is mainly about to establish the new market segment with useful devices and the security of a global infrastructure. And anyway, when Apple comes with its products in a few months, the situation will change again. I am pretty sure that if the demand is there – which is likely – there will be models that are specially adapted to the conditions in production.