Can Android do for wearables what Apple did for smartphones? (The Next Big Thing, Episode 8)
The next big thing is brought to you by is T-Mobile.
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Will Android do for wearables, what Apple did for smart phones?
If cars will be talking soon, what are they going to say?
And beacons, featured soon at a store near you.
Let's get a look at the next big thing.
I'm Brian Cooley, welcome to our search for the next big thing.
Let's talk about a version of Android that you wear.
We're right at the beginning in the miniaturization of technology.
You're gonna talk to your wrist.
How tall is Barack Obama?
It's finally possible to make a powerful computer small enough to wear comfortably all day long.
Google's androidwear is a compact version of that operating system, that really has to do three things.
Run well on new devices like smart watches, get manufacturers to buy into that market,.
They get consumers to do the same thing.
And Google pretty much delivered on every rumor we predicted, and their full rollout of Android wear, with big time support coming out of the gate, with the LG G-Watch, and Samsung's Year Live.
Just one more tap to pay, and the pizza's on it's way
Stainless steel and leather banded watch.
Here, your watch will also provide intelligent answers to spoken questions.
He can even check his heart rate after a jog.
Now Ambroid wear on it's own actually does very little.
A smart watch running it like Samsung Gear or LGG watch.
Has to first pair to a late model Android phone.
No Windows phone, no iPhone support here.
Once that pairing is done, your watch starts to get fed the content it needs for some very simple notifications and basic interactions like reminders of your next appointment or simple guidance to get somewhere, like your next appointment.
Messages and easy ways to reply, weather forecasts coming up, payment confirmations, travel status updates.
Now, these are just some basic early use cases.
And, of course, an Android Wear's functionality is limited only to what developers can come up with, which isn't much of a limitation at all.
But know that the mode here is to have very simple.
Swipe and voice interactions between menus and information screen.
There's no keyboard on that watch.
Now the first watches out with Android were are the predictively nerdy Samsung gear live and LG G watch, more interesting is the pending Motorola 360.
This is a watch with the round face and a very jewelry like look.
Android Wear is able to map its display on interface to the actual round display, not just crudely crop it.
That's important because many, like myself, believe that a key part of smart watch success on any platform is going to be the ability for watch designers to really spread out aesthetically and not be limited to square textile display.
Another big step forward with Android Wear is a degree of agnosticism.
In the past, most smart watches, short past I should point out.
Only worked with their own family of phones.
Early Samsung smart watches only worked with Samsung Galaxy phones and not even all of those.
That's not a formula for success.
Going forward, Android Wear will allow the watch to work with any Android phone running 4.3 of the operating system or newer but still no Windows phone, iPhone, or Blackberry coordination.
It's early days, of course, for the smart watch, not to mention the Android Wear subset of them.
Here's my memo to the Android wear team as well as the manufacturers building on it.
First make it smarter.
Right now we feel the early Android wear watches are kind of giving scatter shot display information and content.
It doesn't seem to map to my moment in the day as well as it could.
Let's filter better.
Make it indispensable.
This is still very much a luxury market.
Nobody can't live without an Android Wear smart watch.
Let's find the really important use cases, so it goes beyond the novelty stage.
We need to extend battery life.
We all have enough devices right now that get plugged in every day.
And look like jewelry.
Once you get past that first million geeks and early adopters, nobody's gonna buy a smart watch that looks like they strapped a smart phone on their wrist.
It is, of course, too soon to predict the growth curve for AndroidWear, let along the broader smart watch market, for a number of reasons.
First of all, Apple hasn't even entered this space yet.
Secondly, most consumers have no idea what we're talking about.
Thirdly, the battle between fitness bands and smart watches has to be sorted out.
And there is an awful lot of overlap there.
But for now, at this moment, Android Wear seems to be the biggest bear in a small growing and rapidly changing woods.
I'm Brian Cooley, back in pursuit of the next big thing.
Perhaps you've heard the recent buzz about so called talking cars.
I just got a tour of a lab where automakers and government researchers team up to create new technologies that help cars communicate with the world around them and with each other.
They can tell you if an oncoming vehicle is about to run a red light, or if a car is coming around a blind corner, or if a detour would help you save some time.
This gives cars a 360 degree awareness of nearby vehicles.
Common navigation systems are not precise enough.
We needed a localization that can give us exact position on a centimeter basis.
The system can also alert drivers to approaching emergency vehicles.
If a crash is detected, emergency crews can be dispatched.
Drivers can be diverted immediately to alternate routes.
Each traffic light has to be correctly identified under all weather and lighting conditions.
This car is stopped.
The car two vehicles behind it can't tell because of traffic in the middle.
But thanks to vehicle to vehicle communication, the driver in the back gets a warning to break even though he couldn't have seen it humanly.
The technology's called DSRC.
Dedicated Short Range Communications.
It gives vehicles a new built in radio, if you will, that operates in the 5.9 GHz band and allows them to communicate to each other in a very specific way.
To tell each other where they are, the direction they are heading and the speed they are going.
It's largely focussed on preventing accidents.
ABI Research for example, predicts that about 10% of new cars shipping will have DSRC by 2018.
And that goes up to 70% by 2027.
Some pretty good number.
In the United States, as of February, 2014, the Department of Transportation announced that it will announce a pending date soon, by which all new cars must ship with DSRC radios enabled.
The goal, 70 to 80% reduction in accidents.
In Europe, it's even more ambitious.
They're looking for a 100% accident free zone by 2050, thanks to DSRC.
But specifically, how would these DSRC enabled talking cars get to those lofty goals.
Well, let's consider some of the scenarios that have been tested at the University of Michigan's Safety Pilot program in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Intersections: cars at all four directions would signal their position and proceeding movement to each other to avoid collisions, t-bones, and right-of-way **** ups.
The DSRC equipped car in front of you would always tell your DSRC equipped car that it's stopping and how fast it is doing so.
On coming cars would signal their direction and closing speed to your car.
So you would always know when it's mathematically disastrous to try and pass.
And then the crude white-knuckle guesses that human drivers make all the time.
Pedestrians and bikes.
DSRC radios could also be pocketable, or even integrated into future smartphones, to make pedestrians and bikes part of this crash avoidance scenario as well.
Now all of the above can be manifested in two major ways.
Active and passive technology.
Active technology means the information from DSRC is sent to the car's computers, which control braking, acceleration, and even steering, to automatically avoid a collision.
Passive of course merely gives the driver indications on the dash about what's about to happen that they want to avoid to alert them to do so.
The nice thing about passive is it could conceivably be retrofitted to millions of cars already on the road.
Now beyond the enormous accident reduction goal, there's another benefit to DSRC and that is increased deficiency of fuel consumption and roadway usage.
Through several means, the first of which is to communicate traffic faves, and timing to cars, the DSRC information would tell the car how long the current traffic light color will be in effect, and when it will change, allowing the car to adjust its trajectory for best traffic flow, fuel usage and momentum conservation, and linking where our private cars would form on the freeway for example, little ad hoc road train.
Following each other as little as maybe three feet, nose to tail, which makes vastly better usage of the existing road infrastructure we have and also could gain some nice aerodynamic benefits for the cars in that train.
Now the hurdles.
First, let me talk about the car industry here.
So you know proprietary is part of the gain that needs to be overcome because DSRC is one of those things that will benefit most.
By working out spectrum, bandwidth, and coding to be global and universal in markets around the world.
DSRC in cars is in a bit of spectrum battle with another technology innovation called U-NII, where wireless carriers want to open up a lot more WiFi that they would use for smart phones to move their data traffic to.
But it's also in that 5.9 gigahertz band.
Automakers don't like the idea of sharing any wireless space with another service like that.
They're afraid it's gonna lead to breakdowns in cars keeping themselves safe, they don't like the liability or the bad PR that could come from that.
For their part, the wireless carriers say, look, we can learn to work with you, and make sure that our wireless traffic always yields to automotive traffic to make that top priority.
The FCC is gonna have to decide that one infrastructure, many of DSRC's benefits, like traffic signal phase and timing, would require traffic signal and control center upgrades.
By perennially broke municipalities.
There's the fleet issue, DSRC is going to work best when virtually all cars have it.
But we have a half a billion cars on the road in the EU and US already that don't have it.
It will take decades or generations to turn them over.
DSRC is often described as a moonshot and that's not overstating it.
It would dramatically change the relationship between cars on the road.
Toward the goal of safety as well as efficiency of road use and fuel consumption.
And it would certainly do a much better job than almost all scenarios.
Of the often bored, distracted, ill trained, or drunk vague ware, we know as the human driver.
Finally, making stores smart.
Bluetooth beacon technology has been getting a lot of buzz.
But the area that is at the center of the heat map is their usage in retail stores.
The idea is fairly simple.
A small device that runs on batteries would be installed on a wall, a counter top, or a ceiling of a retail store, and it could be many of them installed.
They would in turn send out very short data strings to all the Bluetooth receivers around them, typically your smart phone.
And all of this happens on a new technology called Bluetooth Low Energy or Bluetooth Smart.
It's different than the Bluetooth you use right now, primarily because it uses very little energy and it doesn't require all that tedious pairing and connection.
Now the short little messages that the bluetooth beacon sends out that your phone picks up instruct your phone to go to the web and pull down content that's related to where you are or what you're doing.
It can be very focused on the immediate area where you're standing.
Or it could be widened out to relate to the entire store.
There's store proximity.
Beacons could reach out to your phone on the sidewalk let's say.
To urge you to come in to a store based on it's products, special offers or your past patronage.
And there's the check-in stage.
A beacon just inside the door could trigger a reward for you coming in to the store, tailored based on your customer history.
And it could also tee up a pre-approved digital payment method for whatever you may buy.
Then there's product information.
As you scroll the store, the products in it would describe themselves on your phone screen, simply by you approaching them.
That information can be powerfully personalized.
Because remember, the content's being served up by robust existing web servers not that limited little Beacon.
And finally, check out.
No more having to look for a cashier or even an employee with a phone or tablet to check you out.
You just leave the building.
Remember, you already set up your payment back on Beacon stage two.
So you're already approved.
Nielson research suggests the smartphone have set the table for the beacon.
70% of smartphone shoppers use a store locator, 63% use their phone to check prices and product data in the store, 37% keep their shopping list on their smartphone, 34% pull up mobile coupons at checkout.
And 23% have used mobile payment on their phone in some form or another.
Now of course, before this gets any real traction, we've got to get through a few hurdles.
What apps do you need installed for the beacon to work on your phone?
Worse case would be an app for every store.
Better case would be for every chain of stores.
Ideal would be that the technology is built in at the operating system level and you need not install anything.
But we're not there yet.
Handsets, your phone needs to have Bluetooth low energy hardware built in.
Now, iPhones have had it for a while with iOS 7 and future iOS 8 support.
Android, Windows Phone, and Blackberry have been supporting it at the operating system for a while, but it's gonna be a while before it's ubiquitous on Android handsets.
Not until 2018, will we get to, maybe, 90%.
And finally, there's trust.
There's a lot going here that might spook consumers.
This idea of automatically being logged in when you enter a store.
Having your personal preferences linked to your visit.
Automatic payment already being authorized.
That could spook as many consumers as it delights if it's not handled well.
This is a good place for merchants to be just as sensitive and respectful as they are innovative.
But I know this, every shopper I've encountered, would have a much better time in the store, if they could identify what they want, find it within the store's geography, and pay and get out of there with out any delay or friction.
So Beacons have a definite possibility for next big thing status.
Thanks for watching, really enjoyed having you along as we go in pursuit of what's coming next.
Find our back episodes at cnet.com/nextbigthing.
And email me your topic suggestions or things you're curious about at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I'm Brian Cooley.
I'll see you next time we go in pursuit of the future.
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