The smartphone has firmly established itself in the car, integrating with infotainment systems to offer new functionality for mobility in the form of apps without which, for example, car sharing would not be possible. Now there’s another, albeit smaller, digital revolution on the horizon: wearable devices. This is a very broad category of device encompassing fitness bracelets and fully fledged smart watches – from the Apple Watch, which currently dominates the market, to the Samsung Gear S2, which pioneered the genre, and the Huawei Watch. All of these can monitor biometric parameters and the state of health of the wearer, with heartbeat monitoring the most common function, followed by step counters, while even fatigue levels can now be calculated by an app installed on the smartphone linked to the device.
These parameters also have very useful automotive applications, and carmakers are now making preparations to integrate these devices with car systems to function as additional sensors. This will make functions such as attention assist not only more precise but predictive, by constantly monitoring the ‘pulse’ of the driver. There are already apps for smart watches intended specifically to determine if the user is driving distractedly, by acting as a motion sensor.
But the marriage between the wearable device and the automobile will go beyond mere biometric monitoring and other familiar in-car functions such as voice commands and Whatsapp, call and message notification. This union will bring far more sophisticated technological capabilities, with the smart watch serving as a digital key for truly keyless entry. The wearer simply has to approach the car to unlock the doors, meaning you’ll never have to worry about losing your car keys again. A triple appliance between Samsung, Seat and Sap has recently been formed to develop the connected automobile and smart watches, bringing together a consumer electronics manufacturer, a carmaker and an information technology giant. You’ll be able to open and close the windows of your car remotely, or – in light of the increasing move towards electric drive – keep an eye on battery charge. You could even leave your car and then let it park itself, in James Bond style, with a simple tap on the display of your watch.
Smart watches and wearable devices also represent an interesting new area for technology and design. The new devices being launched in a constant stream by consumer electronics giants are following an increasingly evident trend for the circular display which, after it was first introduced by Motorola and LG, soon saw Samsung and Huawei (the Chinese brand gaining an ever stronger foothold in the digital industry) following suit, and Alcatel too, which offers more affordable round models.