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Watching out

Watching out 

There was once a time when a watch was little more than a wearable timepiece. Pocket watches on chains were once a mainstay in the vest pockets of the affluent, eventually evolving into wristwatches. These too would undergo a makeover of their own with the advent of liquid crystal display (LCD) technology. Digital watches soon skyrocketed in popularity; so much so that you couldn’t walk outside for two minutes without seeing someone with a Casio on their wrist.

But the evolutionary process didn’t stop there. Purveyors of personal technology like Apple began to look at their watches, literally and figuratively. They had already succeeded in transforming the cellular phones from portable contact devices into miniature computers capable of replicating the functions of laptop and desktop equivalents. A cell phone used to be solely used for calling people; nowadays, they’re gaming devices, cameras and credit card scanners.

Since its initial launch, Apple’s powerhouse iPhone, which is currently on its much larger sixth incarnation, has been a runaway success within the burgeoning smartphone market. Based on that, Apple believed it could build a watch capable of running the multitude of apps and functions that the iPhone has become synonymous with. Last year, that dream became reality with the concurrent launch of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Apple Pay and the Apple Watch.

The Apple Watch, which is currently available on the market, garnered a lot of attention from the get-go, and rightfully so. Here was a watch that was no longer limited to being a fairly pedestrian timepiece. Fitness gurus could use this new device to listen to music and track their personal stats on the go, while businesspeople could stay up-to-date with email, text messages and social media activity by syncing the watch with their iPhone.

Apple got the ball rolling for the smartwatch revolution, and other companies have since jumped on board to get a piece of the pie for themselves. Samsung has also launched a similar device, the Samsung Galaxy Gear. Like the Apple Watch, it also relies on a smartphone connection.

The medical services industry saw a terrific opportunity to enter wearable technology space. Working with major developers, they could craft a device that could track health and wellness data from homebound patients. The team at Calgary-based Vivametrica have developed such a solution, and they believe it could benefit patients and medical professionals alike by providing new insight into the treatment of certain diseases or injuries.

Canada appears to have become a hotbed for wearable technology, as Montreal’s Neptune launched the Neptune Hub. The company is staunch in their beliefs that other smartwatch developers have “gotten the entire paradigm wrong.” Rather than being smartphone-reliant in order to work, the Hub is equipped with its own SIM card. The device is also bundled with a peripheral known as the Pocket, which acts as a miniature phone of sorts. Neptune executives hold that the “brains” of a smartwatch should be on your wrist rather than through a smartphone.

Many have pondered whether or not these smartwatches are a passing fad, or if they have legitimate potential to make a big splash. Each of the devices on the market right now provide similar functions, and as the role of mobility becomes increasingly prevalent in people’s lives, it’s expected that wearable technology might be here to stay. Despite still being relatively new, they do offer consumers some benefits, and they appear to be a haven for busy businesspeople and the fitness conscious.

Future releases from the big developers may still be able to sync with smartphones, but will gradually become less reliant on them as “parent devices.” Indeed, watches have come a long way since they were first introduced centuries ago. It seems almost cliché to say it, but only time will tell how the evolution of the timepiece as a multi-function device will progress.

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