Apple Watch: the inexorable march of wearable tech

It took three hours for me to marvel at, ignore and disable the hourly ‘Stand up!‘ notification emanating from my left wrist. Three hours for me to adapt from ‘wow, isn’t this amazing’ to ‘stop bothering me‘. The award of a ‘badge‘ for standing up didn’t help much either.

Apple Watch

So it finally arrived: the frankly beautifully packaged Watch. As i peeled back the custom built layers (first the UPS package, a marvel of cardboard engineering in it’s own right, then the razor crisp white box and, finally, the elongated pill shaped case for Watch itself) i felt a sense of genuine excitement. Not because Watch will change my life, but rather because the game is on.

This is not the firstwearable‘ on my person. Indeed, it’s not the second or third. It’s simply the newest addition to a diverse ecosystem of technology, technology that is expanding what we can do and how we do it. And this is just the start.

Lest you think i’m exaggerating, think of this: in the short time we’ve had iPads and smartphones, it’s revolutionised how we work, how we play, how we interact with knowledge and each other. So hang on tight whilst we break the model apart again and integrate a host of other devices. Smaller, more agile, more specialised. More toys.

Emergent Technology

For most people, the first expansion will be into fitness: a Fuel Band, UPmove or FitBit. Perhaps a chip in your shoe when you run a half marathon. For some, a venture towards Google Glass, or perhaps a GoPro camera.

These devices capture, they measure, they quantify, but they also let us create, let us collaborate, let us share. They democratise communication, creativity and community. They tend to be lightweight (both physically and in mindset, if not yet on the wallet) and they tend to be semi disposable: maybe not weekly or monthly, but with no real expectation that they will last more than a year or two, before being outdated and replaced).

They tend to connect to each other and to our core technologies easily. They tend to be temperamental. They tend to have flat batteries a lot. Because we’re just at the start.

I say that wearable technology will transform every aspect of our lives, and i stand by that statement. Not these first generations, but the ones to follow. The ones where they are able to take where we are, who we are near, what we are doing and what we already know and synthesise it into support, in the moment, at speed, to do better.

Apple Watch

The GoPro in itself is just a camera: but soon you’ll be able to tether it to your personal drone, which will follow you down the slope when you ski, circling around you, taking shots that previously you’d only have seen in Bond films. Tethered to your phone, even streaming images to your tablet as it goes. Tie that into sports coaching and it’s transformative: look at yourself doing it. Look at how you could do better. And what if the device itself could coach you? Dynamic feedback as you ski. Bend the knees!

Imagine as you are working at a particularly onerous task, the technology is able to respond to your natural language questions on how the heck you get this thing done. Imagine if it connects you to expertise, or brings you into discussions, based on your location and existing knowledge. This is just around the corner.

Apple WatchEarly adoption of locating technology has been used as mechanisms of power and control over people: tracking where we are to be sure we are working. But as we move beyond that, the technology will start to smooth off the rough edges, make small, everyday tasks fractionally easier. It will choreograph better into our lives, instead of requiring us to fit against it’s needs, and it will do so under our control, not that of the organisation.

Sure: organisations will try to subvert it to their own needs, but that day is passing: agile organisations will attract people through magnetic culture and deploy technology to help them be great. They won’t try to own people and control them through devices. In the Social Age, the relationship between employee and organisation is evolving: it’s a levelling of the power gradient. Everyone has to work, but not everyone has to dread Monday mornings. It is possible to have a job that you love, a job that loves you, and this will increasingly be a factor in our decisions.

Sure, organisations will always be able to hire people, but they won’t necessarily be able to control them in the same ways, and why would they want to? The future is one of excellence through co-created agility.


Why am i talking about social transformation in an article on wearable technology? Because everything in the Social Age so far has been powered by the rise of Social networking and collaboration. So we are just at the start of the change. As the technology continues to smooth off the rough edges, our communities will become stronger, our capability will be enhanced further, the power will be more distributed and everyone will be more accountable.

Watch itself? My first day has been playing: i didn’t read the instruction book, mainly because in Apple style, it doesn’t come with one. But it does have a decent range of videos. And, naturally, it just works. Beautifully. Pairing Google Glass with my phone is painful every time. Watch just produces a stunning animation, like a swarm of tiny diamond bees, and when your camera ‘sees‘ this, it pairs it. That’s choreography.

I haven’t worn a watch since i was sixteen, but there’s one on my wrist now. Although i was too embarrassed to pay for my Starbucks coffee with it yet. Which is weird, as i can happily walk around wearing Glass like a true nerd without worrying.

Watch uses a plethora of sensors combined with a range of micro rewards and stimuli. It’s not perfect. But it’s moving the conversation forward. Many of the fitness Apps and devices connect us more immediately with notions of progress or loss. They quantify changes over time and provide the right little pushes, nudges and reprimands to help us on the overall journey, which sounds like a pretty decent approach to learning to me.

We are just at the start of this conversation: but as ‘eLearning‘, ‘mobile learning‘ and ‘face to face’ are overwhelmed by Scaffolded Social Learning approaches, as older, lethargic, stagnant organisations are sunk by more agile startups, as individuals and communities adapt to the rebalanced power gradients of thee Social Age, make no mistake, wearable technology will change everything. And it’s already started.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
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7 Responses to Apple Watch: the inexorable march of wearable tech

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