Jeff interviews GORGES founder, Matt Clark about Wearable Technology
Jeff: What is the state of wearable communication technology for the general public today?
Matt: The state of wearables is like iPhone was five years ago, in that it’s trying to create a market that people didn’t really know existed. The state of the wearables is that a lot of the tools are not as polished as on the smartphones nowadays. So there are some good opportunities.
Jeff: What do you see for the future of wearables?
Matt: Oh, they’re going to get bigger, because people are used to wearing their watches, so it’s not as invasive as the Google Glasses in my opinion. I think they’re going to be pervasive, and easier to adopt than glasses, and once people start getting used to them, they’re not going to want to go back. Once you have the information you want without having to pull out your phones, your smartphone from your purse or your pocket, people will get used to that, and love it, and that’s what’s happened to me already.
Jeff: Just as it happened to everybody with the smartphones?
Jeff: Once you’ve got it, once you have this access, nobody wants to give it up.
Jeff: So how did you start working on wearables?
Matt: Initially, I thought it was cool tech, and so I wanted one, but I also wanted to push myself in my hobby. So I picked one up that I knew I could program. And Pebble was the first one to do that. I don’t know if it was promoted as a hobbyist device. But that’s what I took it for, and that’s why I purchased it.
Jeff: What was the first Pebble app that you created?
Matt: Tide prediction. I was on my vacation up in Maine, and I looked around, and no one had done it and I thought “Well, here’s an opportunity,” so I created a tide predictor. It used the phone and GPS to find your location, used this information to find the closest tidal station, and then put the low and high tide on your watch. And people thought it was cool.
Jeff: That’s very clever. It’d be great for surfers, and kayakers.
Matt: Yeah. Well, once you put something up, the people want more. And so the surfers said, “That’s ok, but what about the swell height, and all those other sort of surfer-related terms?”
Matt: Most of my apps are popular because I have an online data source for the information, like weather information or tides, and a display device which is the Pebble. My stuff goes in-between. The surf data is not freely available on the internet, so I did not make a surfer watch. People charge money for that.
Jeff: We talked a little bit about how wearables will change how we act and interact, like laptops and smartphones did. Do you want to add anything else to that? Can you tell me more about what will happen?
Matt: Sure, these aren’t my original thoughts, but I read an editorial last fall and what resonated with me was “What is the killer app for the wearables?” And I think that’s a great question because a lot of people are scrambling, trying to figure out what it is. Everyone has the time, old watches could do that. A lot of my apps have weather, and that’s pretty cool, if you want to know what the weather’s like outside.
Matt: But that’s not a killer app. And the editorial I read said that “Putting the wallet on your watch is the killer app.”
Jeff: Could be.
Matt: Yeah, and I think it is, because you always have your wearable with you, like a watch, so all you need to do is wave it in front of a cash register. The speed of transactions could be really cool, and I think it could get some adoption.
Jeff: That could be it. So, the killer app answers the question, “What’s the one app that, once it’s created, everyone is scrambling to get?”.
Matt: Your wallet.
Jeff: And maybe on the Pebble?
Matt: Your wallet on the watch. I liked that editorial. Is it true? I don’t know. But people are still looking for the killer app - nobody seems to have it.
Jeff: You know those fitness bands, I think Nike has them, I think some other people have them too? They collect a bunch of data, are those types of things available for wearables now?
Matt: Yes. Fitness is another huge market. I don’t think it’s going to be as big as the wallet market, but, yeah, it’s absolutely huge. Fitness and health. If you look at what Apple is doing, they’re rolling up some of the health-related sensor people and small companies. They’re buying them. I think the Apple watch, which everyone is like “having baited breath and waiting for it to come out,” I think it’s going to be fitness-related or health-related. Because if their watch can do heartbeat, skin temperature, and activity based on accelerometer and magnetometer, then people will love it.
Jeff: These could also help store data, for people who have illnesses. If you could have that, an EMT could swipe over that, with something and bring up all kinds of information right there and save lives.
Matt: You know, starting last summer, I started doing the Pebble programming, got some success, and folks voted my weather app the first top app. And then I started doing some small blog articles in Pebble.gorges.us.
Jeff: You mentioned a few names earlier, who are the big players right now in wearables? Especially the watches.
Matt: Right, right. I think Pebble is the lead, in terms of adoption. Samsung might be the lead in terms of numbers, because their worldwide sales are probably huge, that’s Samsung we’re talking about.
Matt: But that’s still a watch which, which is not quite… well, I don’t want to say anything negative, Jeff. Basically, the Samsung has more features, but the battery lasts a day.
Jeff: The battery has to be re-charged?
Matt: It has to be re-charged, yeah.
Matt: So, back to the list of leaders: Pebble, Samsung, and then there are a few more watches which have smaller followings such as Meteor and Hot Watch. LG just announced a smartwatch. There’s two or three others, I’ve forgotten.
Jeff: So, it sounds like some of the same problems that smartphones were having in the beginning.
Matt: To try and get noticed.
Jeff: And battery issues, right? Like early smartphones?
Matt: Yes, yes.
Jeff: And then it was, “what would be that draw that brought everybody to it?” So, it’s a similar pattern. But on a smaller device.
Matt: And it’s only going to be getting better, I mean, the Pebble, if you compare the Samsung gear to the Pebble, the gear looks great, color screen, speaker, microphone, it’s got most of the features. But then you look at it, at how it’s used every day, and if people are used to charging things every day, fine. If they’re not used to charging things every day, then maybe they just want to tone back their expectations so they can get something whose battery lasts almost a week. I know that was my choice.
Jeff: Or, someone could develop a way to charge it just by movement, the movement of the arm.
Matt: Just like the old mechanical watches.
Jeff: Right, and then you’d never have to worry about it.
Matt: And just wait till the next update, it’s probably like two generations away, but the curved capacitor glass, or even the flexible glass is going to come out, and hit the market, and that’s really going to make some change.