Adding functionality and improving the performance of the smartwatch calls for utilizing the untapped real-estate of the band to create a smarter, better Apple Watch experience.
Mudra — smart band for Apple Watch
“I think the Wrist is Interesting”, Apple CEO Tim Cook 2013
The human wrist is a highly valuable “real-estate” for sensing the human body. Nerve bundles and arteries pass directly beneath the skin thus it is possible to sense the electrical conductance of the nerves and other bodily functions and collect valuable user data. The major wrist bio-signals that are measured and monitored today include wrist general movement, heartbeat, ECG irregularity, skin temperature, breathing, sleep quality, and hydration.
While a wearable can be found on almost any area of the body, the most prevalent wearables are wrist-worn: the fitness band and the smart watch. On top of the fitness band, the smart watch can track fitness-related metrics such as distance walked and calorie consumption and it can also display notifications, play music and run various applications.
Recently, some researchers even claim that a smart watch could eventually be used as a corona virus (Covid-19) early-warning system, as data from the device can reveal symptoms before the person even realizes his sickness.
Right hand palm and wrist area view (highlighted, left) and back of the wrist area (illustration, right)
From the pocket to the wrist
Humans have always adorned their bodies with gadgetry — be it for show, for utility, or both. They have been using tools and their hands for thousands of years, for controlling the environment by movement, for sensing, and for communicating through hand movements and gestures.
The shift of the watch case from a chained-pocket watch to the wrist-worn watch started in World War I as soldiers needed a “hands-free” timepiece in the battlefield. The public’s conception of a wrist watch as a women’s accessory has shifted, unshackling Men from the chained watch concept to a wearable watch. With the emergent of commercial aviation the wrist-watch gained popularity among pilots for aerial navigation, and the post World War II industry embraced the wrist watch as a common productivity tool.
The watch band, also named watch strap, or watch bracelet, straps the watch case (screen) onto the back of wrist. It can be made of various materials such as rubber, leather, plastic, or metal. The market is filled with amazing band styles and designs, at prices ranging from less than $1.0 to the neighborhood of roughly a Thousand dollars for a Apple Watch Series 5 Hermès band.
There is now a market for watch bands
Unlike the traditional classic timepiece’ strap which was considered an integral part of the watch, the smart watch band and specifically the Apple Watch band has a big growing market for all sorts of bands.
Balancing the features of the watch for all day comfort and durability in the very active wrist area requires the right selection of band and case key factors: (1)band thickness, (2)band width, (3)band material, (4)case diameter size and (5)case thickness. The general guideline rule is that the bigger your wrist is, the bigger watch case and band you will wear. Apple watch case sizes vary from 38mm to 44mm, whereas the Garmin Fenix 6X largest case is 51mm in diameter.
The Apple Watch case back is packed with Optical heart sensor (PPG) and Electrical heart sensor (electrodes) which cover the back of the wrist. Measuring additional bio-metrics such as temperature, sweat or hydration will require placing sensors along the wrist area, and supplying them with power, miniaturized electronics, and communication to the watch itself.
Placing additional electronics on the wrist can also improve the watch performance and battery life, due to the limitations of the case size. Thus, the smart watch band becomes a valuable real estate for future expansion of the smartwatch’ performance and capabilities.
Adding additional hardware on the Apple Watch band to make it smarter is great for:
placing sensors which detect bio-potentials along the full wrist area, for additional health/fitness tracking or for other use-cases
moving some of the existing hardware from the case inside to the band to balance the case size and band form factor
upgrading a watch specifications by improving the battery life, sound quality and power, and the user experience and interaction
Mudra Band for Apple Watch — a smart array of sensors and electronics embedded in the band
What can we learn from Apple on the future of the wrist
There have been a few Apple patents which suggest that Apple might be planning to add watch functionality or additional sensors into the band. These patents include smart bands that each will provide a very specific new functionality such as fingerprint sensor or temperature sensor, a band with infra-red sensors to scan the veins and translate finger gestures to control AR/VR games, a self-adjusting watch band, a Wrist-ID Biometric authentication sensor, and more.
Samsung also has patents for embedding a battery into the watch strap, and a patent for detachable sensors for the watch band.
All in all, the use-cases include moving hardware into the band (battery, electronic modules), and adding sensors along the wrist circumference, be it for health monitoring, for identifications or for improving user-experience and interaction.
You can find smart Apple Watch bands in the market today
Some companies already introduced external (after market) smart wrist bands for the Apple Watch and other smart watches. These products include ergonomic straps, battery banks, additional bio-metric sensors, audio and vibrations experiences, and control and interaction options for the watch or for other devices. They come in the form of a buckle, a clip, or a full watch band. Here is a short list of some of them:
Mudra band — adds touchless control to Apple Watch using sensors on the wrist area.
Aura strap — tracks hydration and body composition for Apple Watch using sensors on the strap.
Sgnl — a strap that that enables you to make calls by placing your fingertip on your ear.
Twin smart strap — turns a Montblanc watch to a smart watch by displaying notifications and tracking fitness metrics.
Wristcam — lets you take photos and videos using a band equipped with two cameras for Apple Watch.
Most of these products can be tracked to an Apple. Tough they may look unnecessary now, one should remember that the Apple Watch itself was considered as something that “no one has a reason to buy” or as “a gadget that needs to be more than just bling”.
The Mudra Band for Apple Watch — no-touch interaction
Apple’s future is built around wearable computers all over the body, instead of computers that live on a desk
The smartwatch market has reached the growth life cycle with devices available at multiple price-points to meet the needs of a diverse market. IDC forecast for the category is growing from 92.4 million unit shipments in 2019 to 146.3 million shipments in 2024, at a 9.4% Compound Annual Growth Rate. That is a total of 596 million units shipped 2020–2024.
Smart Watch shipments 2014–2019 and forecast 2020–2024 (data Source: IDC)
Apple’s Q3/2020 earnings report of the Wearables, Home and Accessories” category sales $6.45B, Up 16.7% YoY. 75% of people who bought an Apple Watch last quarter were buying their first Apple Watch. Back in January this category revenue grew 37% Year over Year, which was larger than Mac revenue for the first time. This milestone signals how much room there is to grow, and emphasizes how Apple’s future is built around wearable computers all over the body, instead of computers that live on a desk.
The smartwatch is a product that mixes style, fashion, technology, utility, health and fitness. The band is an integral part of the watch, and may be subject to more functionality than just style and fashion as new use-cases and functionalities will require adding hardware and electronics into the watch band, making it a Smart Band for the Smart Watch.
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Wearable Devices Ltd develops a non-invasive neural interface for the wrist that allows revolutionary new input experiences and applications for the digital world. The Mudra technology enables control of digital devices using subtle finger movements and the analysis of neural signals. We use proprietary sensors and Deep Learning algorithms to decipher the neural code and detect which finger the user moved. Each finger movement is bound to a control function in order to create the most instinctive, intuitive and natural user experience for wearable computers — smartwatches, smart glasses and head mounted devices.
A few words about myself: I am the Chief Marketing Officer at Wearable Devices Ltd. I held marketing and engineering roles ranging from a SP500 company to a small online retail shop. I hold an MBA in Finance and Marketing, a Masters ME degree in Systems Engineering and a BSc. in Mechanical Engineering.
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From Hands-free to Touch-free
The Mudra band offers touch free Control for Apple Watch using same-hand no-touch finger movements and gestures. You can manage calls, control music, and operate watch functions using the fingers of the hand that wears the watch, thus making it a single-hand operated devices. The display stays visible and you can operate the watch while multi-tasking.
The Mudra Band offers a paradigm shift in user interaction: moving the watch from the pocket to the wrist made it hands-free, and Mudra creates a touch-free user experience. You can learn more about the Mudra Band for Apple Watch at www.mudra-band.com
Original blog post was published on The Startup/Medium