I feel like we’re at almost the same place with Apple Watch as we were when we were concerned the first iPhone wouldn’t have a keyboard.
At first I didn’t quite get it with the Apple Watch: a computer on a wrist. I don’t like wearing a watch, what’s it going to do for me? At the same announcement where Apple was going with larger versions of the iPhone, Apple debuts a much smaller screen and perhaps the smallest interface yet. How could the interface get smaller and this be so revolutionary at a time when interfaces are getting bigger?
But, in fact, the interface just got a lot bigger.
It’s the combination of NFC, iBeacon and Bluetooth 4.0, along with the fact that the device knows where it is (on the wrist) and can communicate with a phone and many other things. Apple is mapping our physical world and making our close physical environment the interface, and it’s largely transparent to the user.
From Business Insider on Apple Watch Tracking our Movements:
“Specifically, the tracking mechanism on Apple Watch will be similar to the little-understood mechanism currently used in Apple’s iPhones. It combines Bluetooth 4.0 (the localized wireless signal system that lets you transmit or receive data from a nearby device), iBeacon (signal-emitting beacons that Apple is seeding all over stores and other physical locations in the real world) and NFC (another wireless transmitting system that Apple has incorporated into iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, and the Apple Watch).”
The Watch will be able to close the loop on activity between you, messages you receive and payments you make (via Apple Pay) and even how different environments, messages and products make you feel, and how your respond in terms of activity.
In other words, it will not only allow Apple to monetize the immediate context and environment, but it will be able to amass a wealth of data on both your bodily activity and even emotion and place in the world. Your responses and activities have just become part of the network, a part of the economy. Apple is building a behavioral economy.
And it’s going to happen fast. Banks are already heavily advertising Apple Pay, and Apple has a jump on mapping all of our internal spaces. When you want to make the world an interface, you need a very detailed map of it.
How Apple manages all this information will determine whether it’s convenient or creepy. They’ll need to maintain very tight trust with consumers. In the post-Jobs era of Apple, will Apple be able to resist the temptation to share this wealth of behavioral economic data?
Putting the World into a Health Context
Apple is seeking to map our our worlds both physically and via several other contexts. It says it right in the press release “the most personal device ever”. When Apple says personal, they mean they understand your context. They know who you are, what you’re doing, and even what you want to do within that context. Apple acquired Topsy last year for $200 million, a company big on contextual awareness algorithms around twitter. Think of it as digital psychology, and they’ll be able to run these tests almost every moment of every day.
There are many different ways to view a person’s context and they’ll often wind up in dimensions. Wellness organizations often talk about the “8 dimensions of wellness”: Emotional, Environmental, Financial, Intellectual, Occupational, Physical, Social and Spiritual.
With the Watch, Apple could have a pretty good map of each of these for any individual. As we make the move from patient to consumer, and from health care to health, this kind of contextual awareness will become critical.
With HealthKit and Apple Watch together, there’s not only going to be an environmental interface, but also a body interface, sensing the user’s internal state. Tying that internal state (heart rate as an example) to objects in the real world could be the next step toward the internet of things around consumers, as Tim Cook hinted. What will the world be like when we are in constant, transparent communication with the physical world around us?
At VivaPhi we identify several different contexts and environments of influence in consumer’s lives and how they make decisions. The Watch will be able to say more about these various contexts and exactly how these contexts, messages and tools are able to influence behavior. We see the potential as a contextual platform on a wrist. We’ll see what app developers create before we have much of an idea of what it can do, whether it’s convenient or creepy. What happens over the next few years will be as surprising or more so than the iPad apps.
The Apple Watch has little to do with telling time, it’s about contextual awareness. It’s a step toward our entire world becoming an interface. Let’s hope Apple can keep the streak alive creating devices that are more about what the consumer wants the world to do, rather than what the world wants the consumer to do.