Benjamín Bilbao, a contributor to Spanish-language website ZoomNews, contacted me by email while researching an article he was preparing about wearable computing entitled “Google Glass, smartwatch y otros gadgets inteligentes… que te espían” (Google Glass, smartwatches, and other intelligent gadgets… that spy on you.)
I replying to Benjamín, I referred to the old concept of Personal area networks, given that the majority of devices under discussion in this area appear to be opting to use the smartphone as a central server via Bluetooth, which from version 4.0 onward now provides more than adequate speed, reach, and most of all, low energy consumption.
Over the course of a normal day, my personal area network includes at least three devices: a smartwatch that tells me the time and allows me to see emails, messages, or calls without having to get my smartphone out; a tracker that registers my steps, distance, and calories burned; and sends the information to my smartphone, which then analyzes it, and the smartphone itself. The idea of wearing a range of devices and sensors that talk to each other feels, to say the least, futuristic.
Here’s my reply to Benjamín:
Q. Of the range of new internet-connected devices and applications (glasses, watches, wristbands, etc.) which do you think will have the greatest impact on our everyday lives?
A. It is difficult to predict which individual device will affect us most, because they cannot be seen in isolation, but rather as part of the whole. Smartwatches make no sense without a smartphone that feeds its updates; and the same is true of my Fitbit tracker or Google Glass: the smartphone seems to be establishing itself as a key aspect of Personal Area Networks. In some cases we are talking about functions that work on the periphery and that provide a more interactive visualization, or in other cases, sensors that are specialized or carry out their measurements with greater sensitivity, or that relieve the smartphone’s battery of bearing too heavy a load. But everything indicates that the smartphone will continue to play a key role, functioning as the hub through which we connect to other things.