Wearables and Android Wear


11/19/2014 11:42 AM

Android Opinion

Smart Technology

The current state of wearables

Wearable technology has been around a long time, in 16th century China the Qing Dynasty saw the introduction of a fully functional abacus on a ring. However the first wearable digital computers weren't seen till the 1980's, although these were mostly unsuccessful. The first watch phone debuted in 1999 but it wasn't until the late 2000's that we began to see more advanced wearable technology. These advances were made possible by improved battery and display technology as well as vastly aided by new interface standards such as Bluetooth. These early wearable computers would go on to shape the modern smart wearables available today.

Speaking of availability, wearable technology has been a hot topic in recent years and many companies have been getting in on the action. Wearable technology now comes in various form factors and with a wide range of applications, most notably commercial, medical and military. Whilst the medical and military spheres may include some of the more interesting and novel uses we're going to look at the commercially available smart wearables, specifically in the telecoms industry where wrist mounted technology currently holds the largest market share by far.

Some of the most well-known wrist mounted tech available today come from the established players in the phone industry, a non-exhaustive list is as follows:

Sony Smart Watch 3

Samsung Galaxy Gear S

Qualcomm Toq

Pebble Steel

LG G Watch

Motorola Moto 360

Asus ZenWatch

Apple Watch

Microsoft Band

Razer Nabu

Of course wrist technology isn't the only wearable form factor, eye wear is also making the headlines and raising important privacy concerns. The most notable eye wear is Google Glass which is currently available under a developer program. Another popular use of wearable technology is in the guise of fitness aids, these have in the past taken various forms such as wristbands, clothes or embedded into shoes, we're now starting to see such fitness features available in smartwatches.

Android Wear and Lollipop

Until recently wearables often ran on proprietary or Linux based operating systems. The creator of the most popular mobile operating system, Google's Android, has identified the need for a uniformed OS and has created Android Wear specifically for smartwatches and other wearables. Users are now easily able to pair their wearables to their Android smartwatch as well as retain the shared usability. Android Wear will make features already familiar to Android phone users available on your wearable device and available third party apps for additional functionality are increasing daily.

Google Now notification cards are now more convenient than ever. OK Google voice commands can be issued without ever needing to retrieve your phone from your pocket, send a text message, set a meeting on your calendar or simply search for information all performed completely hands free. Location based weather, traffic or environmental based warnings can also be delivered with a flick of the wrist; in one demo a surfers Android Wear watch can be seen to display a warning about jellyfish in the beach area. Android Wear is also able to access the sensors in your wearable device to track your footsteps, heart rate and blood glucose levels and feed it into your favourite fitness app, making it the perfect companion to take on a run.

Android Wear will soon receive an update to Android 5.0 Lollipop which will add some very interesting new features. One example is Amazon's Google Play app which will enable you to search for products and purchase them via your Android Wear watch. Other improvements include a storage and battery monitor, new watch faces and the ability to display weather information on them, new brightness and accessibility controls and several under the hood performance boosts.

Currently Android Wear is only available on the latest generation of smartwatches available from LG, Samsung, Motorola, Sony and Asus but we quickly expect Android Wear to become the de facto operating system for new wearable devices from Android based phone manufacturers. Apple of course will continue to do their own thing with the Apple Watch so that it integrates with the iPhone line and we look forward to seeing what the Apple Watch can do.

How wearables effect your website

Due to the nature of wearable technology the embedded displays are much more compact than those available in hand held smartphones. In a similar vein the battery capacity is also much smaller, after all no one wants to carry around a brick on their arm. One further major difference is the wearables interface, which can be limited or different to what's expected from a smartphone. It's no secret that wearable technology is going to become more prevalent in years to come and more and more people will be using said wearables to access websites.

If you have a website then these three considerations of display size, battery life and interface usability should be paramount when considering the future of your mobile website. This means making your mobile website pages optimised for smaller screens so they continue to display elegantly, making your mobile website efficient in respect to battery consumption by omitting large images, sound or other unnecessary elements, as well as reducing page load for a good user experience. Finally to optimise your mobile websites navigation to ensure a seamless experience for customers visiting via wearable devices.

51Degrees lends your server the intelligence needed to optimise your website for devices of all sizes, from the smallest wearable to the largest TV. With 51Degrees you can detect the device used to access your website and then serve them the appropriate webpage in an efficient and seamless fashion. No longer will you need to update your website to meet the demands of future devices as 51Degrees performs the hard work and publishes updates on a daily basis.