Why accountants don't need smart watches
Wearables are a new frontier for tech - here's what you need to know.
1984. A year many associate with an increasingly accurate novel, Apple announcing its Macintosh computer, and most importantly for accountants: Casio releasing the Databank watch.
Ahead of its time, the Databank put a calculator on your wrist. Finally we could leave our calculators at home and compute on the go. It was truly the golden age of wearable technology for accountants, though this prestige was unfortunately short-lived. Heading into the early 90s, and computers and PDAs became significantly more compact, exponentially more powerful, but, critically, more affordable. The Casio Databank scuttled into obscurity, though is surprisingly still produced today.
'Wearables' is a buzzword leaking into our vocabulary, which describes a fairly ambiguous area of tech. It is simply a category of technology we can wear and something else to keep charged.
For those of you who can't live without the latest in tech, here's what you need to know:
The most accessible form of wearables is the fitness bracelet. Generally, these devices are small, inconspicuous bands made of silicone. The majority have either no screen, or a very small one. Focusing on tracking your activity throughout the day, they pair with a smart phone via bluetooth. These glorified pedometers can also include additional sensors to measure things like your heart rate and sleep pattern. The low price point and generally pleasing aesthetics make them an obvious gateway wearable. It's worth checking out the offerings from Jawbone and Fitbit.
A similarly congested region of the wearables space, the smart watch serves to extend the functionality of your smart phone beyond the basic health tracking. There are apps specific to devices that can allow you to turn off your house lights, check the weather at a glance and see how the battery on your electric car is doing. They're best described as a dashboard on your wrist. Apple is making the largest impact in this category with their Apple watch, with prices starting at £299. A gold version, however, is selling for £13,500.
Google Glass is an experimental product that brings a heads-up display to your glasses by way of a small attachment. Controlled through voice, Google Glass provides useful alerts, records video and provides directions. Sold as a beta product in 2013, the $1500 price tag was off-putting for most and Google has subsequently stopped selling it, promising a re-release someday…
Delving into the realms of virtual reality, the Oculus Rift headset attaches stereo screens to the wearer's eyes. It uses sensors to track the movement of your head and translates those movements into movements on the screen to provide a truly immersive experience. The oculus isn't strictly a wearable as it needs to be tethered to a powerful desktop computer. It's application is focused on gaming and 3D modelling rather than attaching to smart phones. Though experiments such as Google cardboard suggest there could be a mobile future for VR.
Zepp sports Sensor
Zepp has created a sensor which can be used for various sports and attaches to your sporting implement accordingly. In this case, attaching to your golf glove. Paired with a smart phone app, this small green box analyses the path of your swing in an effort to help you improve your technique.The accompanying app shows you your swing in 3D, how fast your swing is and even if you're rotating your hips correctly. The sensor mount is also available for tennis, baseball and softball.
The state of wearables today would suggest that they are still in their infancy. The current crop are largely crippled by a symbiotic attachment to smartphones, with functionality generally limited to analysing your fitness or crushing you with notifications of unread work emails. They also lack both independence and true inter-connectivity. We're not yet at a point where we can throw our smartphones away. Wearables are currently very experimental and it's hard to tell what more we can expect from these devices.
Right now, the proposition of wearables restricts them to largely tech enthusiasts and that comes down to their purpose being unclear. Most people could tell you why they need a smart phone in their life, but as someone who wears a smart watch, it's still hard to come up with a justifiable explanation to my hecklers as to why it's better than their £15 watch. It's great at telling the time, but it's true calling is still absent and the whole category can't be defined as intrinsic like our smartphones. For accountants, once we see wearables become a viable alternative to your smartphone, however, we'll see the uptake skyrocket.