Liquid Computing

Apple Watch: The Internet of things' new frontier

A combination of liquid computing technology, smart focus, and compelling interface shows the right way forward

iOS 8 is the hidden revolution in personal computing, pulling together smartphones and tablets with car infotainment centers, home automation devices, health and fitness devices, and Macs. It's the center of liquid computing in the Apple universe, and right now the main center in the industry.

Apple Watch: The Internet of things' new frontier
Credit: Reuters/Stephen Lam

Apple's new Apple Watch -- to be released in early 2015 and starting at $349 -- is the new orbit around that center, bringing computing to an even more personal device than a phone. Watches are passé for many of us, something that the smartphone obviated. With the Apple Watch, Apple rejuvenates the watch as both a watch and a new kind of personal computing device.

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It's a whole new dimension for the Internet of things.

There've been smart watches on the market for a year, notably from Samsung and Lenovo's Motorola Mobility, running Google's Android Wear. But they're all failures, ill-conceived attempts to shrink the smartphone to your wrist.

The Apple Watch is different. It's a companion to your smartphone, relying on it (via a Bluetooth tether) for Internet connectivity, GPS, and many of its apps. The Apple Watch focuses on what make sense to do on your wrist, and it leaves the rest to the iPhone. So it's a really cool chronometer, activity tracker, exercise reinforcer, and reminder/alert device.

It wisely uses Siri for commands, queries, and search, as well as simple touch gestures to interact with the screen. But it also uses a good old-fashioned analog technology -- the watch dial, aka crown -- as an effective, intuitive interface mechanism, much as the original iPod's click wheel did for navigating thousands of songs without a mouse or keyboard.

And it uses haptic technology -- physical feedback like vibration and resistance -- to provide a new mode of interface. The tingle of an alert, the physical feel of a tap versus a press, and the ability to feel someone else's heartbeat transmitted to your wrist are simply amazing experiences that people will love.

Credit Apple for using analog approaches to make digital technologies work better.

Apps, created with the new WatchKit APIs for iOS 8 in Apple's Xcode 6 IDE, are more like extensions to iPhone apps, which means the iPhone can do much of the heavy lifting both for processing and detailed display. New iOS 8 technologies like Handoff allow for intelligent collaboration between the Apple Watch and iPhone, and likely the Mac as well.

Watch apps can of course be standalone apps, such as for airline checkin or using the new Apple Pay mobile payment service, but such apps are designed for a simple use case, so they make sense on a watch.

But what makes the Apple Watch the next frontier of the Internet of things is none of these things. It is all of these things. It's the combination of these technologies and the collaboration of the Apple Watch with Siri, the Web, the iPhone, and the raft of new Apple APIs like HealthKit, HomeKit, CarPlay, and WatchKit.

The Internet is a federation of information and activities around that information (such as through JavaScript). The Internet of things is a federation of contexts from sensors, information, location, and activities, spread across devices that sometimes collaborate. Apple gets that fundamental notion, and the Apple Watch is a great expression of it.

This article, "Apple Watch: The Internet of things' new frontier," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Smart User blog. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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