Inevitably, wearable technology will reach a tipping point when devices (bracelets aka wristbands, glasses and armbands) will become a part of common existence on a daily basis. Perhaps we should be considering them the logical evolution of the bathroom scale…
The first penny scales were created in the early 1900s and were considered money-making opportunities, much like the blood pressure machines found in many pharmacies today. And much like that technology, it evolved, grew smaller and less expensive and quickly moved from the public realm into the private — by the 1940s the bathroom scale was a common household item that was highly designed and elegant in it’s own right. Today, we have scales that are networked, connected to our physicians and smart enough to tell us to lay off the unhealthy foods.
Thanks to the technology that has brought the “quantified self” from a battery of tests at a medical facility to the public’s bathroom, wearable technology is making the same leap that adds design to functionality. There are many award-winning designs of wearable tech, including the Nike+ FuelBand and Kiwi “Glance” but there is one more step that can be made… especially when considering wearable devices.
Classic and beautiful design of “wearable tech” is present in every haute couture wristwatch but has been noticeably absent from the consumer electronics world in anything other than cosmetic additions to functional devices. Wrist-mounted wearable technology is often elegant in it’s own way, function leading design to a solution. The timeless elegance (pun intended) of a simple analog watchface has been used in wearable technology, but Withings new Activité watch makes the obvious and very difficult move — it is a classic, even simplistic, design but holds all the wearable technology found in their existing Pulse activity tracker within it’s slim shell.
Some [tech companies] have tried to move closer into the fashion camp by borrowing the credibility of high-end and established designers through partnerships and special editions of their products. The true marriage of fashion and technology is not just going to come from the established fashion houses and tech giants, but through the creativity of innovators and a new brand of designers.
— Nina Garcia, Marie Claire Creative Director
Design aside, the technology of the Activité is remarkable — especially when considering that what might have been considered as strict limitations imposed by the hyper-simple analog design become some of the most intuitive innovations. One of the first things that a technophile will notice is the complete lack of buttons or openings — all adjustments happen via the smartphone application via Bluetooth LE and the watch is powered by a common button cell battery. Since nearly all the calculations do not happen on the watch, Withings expects that each battery will last about a year (yes… a year) and then just require a new battery. The lack of openings means that the Activitê is naturally water resistant (claiming a seal that is effective to 5 atmospheres) and the only secondary function accessible from the watch itself is to check the time that the alarm is set to go off — simply double-tap the glass.
Withings CEO Cédric Hutchings, was excited to comment that the company is exited to embrace the new Health Kit platform and will bring their devices, including the Activité on board as soon as is possible.
It is more than just the sum of the inherent desirability of the elegant watch or it’s intelligent core that will make the Withings Activité a success when it is available to consumers this fall — we must also consider that the team that created this innovation understands what Buckminster Fuller said: “hen I’m working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I think only how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.”