It seems amazing that the computational power nestled inside your iPhone is greater than that packed inside the original iMac. Today's powerful yet mobile families of connected devices give you many of the great features of a computer - without the computer.
Think about it: You can surf the Web, check messages, play a game. Add any of the tens of thousands of available apps and your phone's a guitar, a spirit level, a language translator, even a bodyguard. In future it surely seems inevitable you might use online software-as-service services to help you conduct tasks it's not possible to transact on your device due to hardware and system limitations. Meanwhile the capabilities of Apple's mobile devices improve with each release.
So, what more can we expect from the wearable technology evolution of the Post-PC age? Will an Apple iWatch one day be the only computer we need? What else can we look forward to from "wearable computing"?
Nikolay Lamm's illustration of what an Apple watch might be -- note the spiral user interface for app selection on the clock face.
Vision of the future
The machines are waking up! We already have smart fridges, intelligent home control systems such as the Nest thermostat, and intelligent monitoring and control systems across thousands of farms along the Asia-Pacific.
"Inanimate things are coming to life," wrote MIT professor Alex Pentland in 2000: "The simple objects that surround us are gaining sensors, computational powers, and actuators. Consequently, desks and doors, TVs and telephones, cars and trains, eyeglasses and shoes, and even the shirts on our backs are changing from static, inanimate objects into adaptive, reactive systems that can be more friendly, useful, and efficient."
The evolution of fast Wi-Fi and fast mobile data networks (4G, Femtocell, Metrocell et al) has spawned an IP-enabled infrastructure to for connected devices. Much is expected: The UK move to deploy 'smart' meters nationally by 2019 aims to cut energy consumption by offering granular insight into how it is used.
These visions of smart objects easily feed wearable computing dreams. Such dreams aren't new: the colour-changing clothes of Tron; Geordie LaForge's glasses in Star Trek; Dick Tracy's watch. What's new is that these fantasies are being realised, for example:
- The UK military is investing in development of smart fabrics for uniforms through the Centre for Defence Enterprise.
- Google is developing intelligent glasses, Google Glass.
- Firms such as Pebble are creating intelligent watches.
- Numerous firms are developing self-driving cars.
While the functionality of the built-in processor in some smart systems may be limited, cloud-based systems can supplement that intelligence, gathering data on what you do in order to make your smart devices as responsive as possible to your needs. Your devices will learn what you want, and get it for you: walk into a hotel room and you'll find it set to your ideal temperature, for example.
“The stars of tomorrow are going to be the ones that carry computers into better understanding of humans. Eventually these machines are going to be like human friends. It’s absolutely going to happen," said Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak at an industry event.
Apple already has a stake in this evolution with the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. These express the important contribution mobile technologies have to make within the future emergence of the Internet of things.
We have no proof Apple's looking at these emerging markets, but it's hard to imagine it isn't. After all, company CEO, Tim Cook, told shareholders at the recent annual meeting: “Obviously we’re looking at new categories; we don’t talk about them, but we’re looking at them." Apple has also filed numerous patent applications that could prove relevant to wearable devices.
Apple CEO Tim Cook says his company is "on the face of the Earth to make great products".