Most of you have, by now, unpacked your Xmas gifts. Many of you are probably wondering if there are some you should return. Should you hang on to the items that seem cool at Christmas but that, deep down, you know will return little value overtime? On top of my list this year is the “Smart Watch”.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m a big fan of wearables. As research has shown, sensors and smart devices are a major contributor to the Big Data explosion and their value is undeniably justifiable (if you are not convinced of this trend, watch Robert Scoble’s book, “the Age of Context”). I personally own a Withings Scale, a Jawbone UP, a Nike+ band and many other “smart gadgets”. These devices collect and generate data on my behalf and I’ve built a system that allows me to visualize my goals, measure and predict my progress.
Smart is as smart does…
However, our passion for data shouldn’t impair our ability to think critically when it comes to selecting the wearables that make our lives better. Wearables are not all born equal. In the case of devices we currently call “Smart Watches”, I feel that there is a vast confusion around which devices we are referring to. My Basis watch is a “different type of Smart” than my Samsung watch. One collects data that for me, the other one repeats data I already have access to on another device…Why should they both fit in the same category? Finally, they don’t have the same roles. Here are 2 rules I used to decide which one to keep this Christmas. I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Rule #1: The “Google Glass” effect
No matter how hot a device might seem, I asked: what am I trying to achieve with this device? Will the compromise in changing my daily habits compound to making me a better human in the end? In the case of the Smartwatch, I wavered between the feeling of living in the 80s (I mean, who wears a watch?!) and the ideal that the device truly adds value to my life. At best so far, the Samsung watch can make me appear “cool” in some parts of the world and flat out “out of place” in most cities. I call that the “Google Glass effect” – it might be too early for me or the device might be too much for the group of people I associate with. Either way, the novelty and cool effect will wear off quickly, and if by then, I haven’t extracted clear value out of it, it risks being a major waste of wrist weigh.
Rule #2: The “Calculator Watch” effect
The Pebble watch is a cool gadget. So is the Samsung watch. However, what specific scenario do they address? Most humans have two arms and limited wrist space. Should they swap their Basis for their Samsung watch?
The answer to these questions really comes to use cases and their occurrence frequency throughout my day. I call that the “Calculator Watch” effect. Back in 1975, Pulsar introduced the calculator watch. For you, Y-gen readers, the idea was that you could use the tiny buttons on a watch just like you would use them on a calculator. It might sound crazy now, but the watch type became quite a sensation. The craze started with nerds, kid nerds like me and expanded to the rest of the population. The demand for it was predicated on mainly two things: the idea that access to a calculator was overrated and, to a much larger extend, the hype users generated from the coolness of the watch. That worked for a decade or so when the demand for such watches started to tamper down. Had anything changed? Did the watch-makers make a strategic mistake? No, it just took that long for the community to realize in mass that the use case didn’t occur that often.
Fast-forward to 2014. If you hold a phone in your hand and wear a smart watch at the same time, isn’t the utility of the watch limited? In this specific case, it seems that rotating my wrist 180 degrees would give me access to everything the watch is offering and more, on a better screen. Is the Samsung watch deemed to repeat the calculator’s watch’s history? The order numbers for the Samsung watch don’t point to overwhelming demand yet.
Maybe that’s why Apple hasn’t joined the fray yet? After all, the best innovations are the ones that address an existing problem with a massively superior approach. It seems the problem hasn’t been fully validated or hasn’t been addressed in a superior manner…yet. It’s never good to build a product that’s looking for a problem. So, until that changes, I’m afraid I’ll have to return my “Smart Watch” and stick to a “Smarter” one.
Bruno Aziza is a Big Data entrepreneur and author. He’s lead Marketing at multiple start-ups and has worked at Microsoft, Apple and BusinessObjects/SAP. One of his startups sold to Symantec in 2008 and two of them have raised tens of millions and experienced triple digit growth. Bruno is currently Chief Marketing Officer at Alpine Data Labs, loves soccer and has lived in France, Germany and the U.K. You can contact him @ email@example.com