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Google smartwatch may be next part of wearable computer family

If reports of a smartwatch development effort are true, the technology could connect with Google Glass

March 22, 2013 02:12 PM ET

Computerworld - Move over Glass. Google is also reportedly working on an Android-based 'smartwatch' as well as the computerized glasses.

While the Glass product, Google's computerized eyeglasses, is still in development, reports are continuing to surface about the company's work on another wearable computer - a watch.

Sources told The Financial Times (free registration required) that Google's Android Unit is developing a so-called smartwatch that would be an extension of Android smartphones. The unnamed source was said to have been briefed on the project.

Google did not respond to a request for comment on the report.

Google was awarded a patent in October of 2012 for a smartwatch design that includes a processor, a flip-up display, a tactile user interface, and a wireless transceiver that can connect to a wireless router.

Reports of Google's smartwatch development effort come amid swirling rumors that Samsung and Apple have similar projects underway.

"I think this is part of the building of the 'Internet of things,'" said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research. "The more things that are connected, they more value they have to us."

In that light, Google Glass could work very well with a smartwatch.

The Glass technology enables users to take photos, shoot video, pull up maps, and share images and information on social networks from their glasses. A transparent interface over the right eye shows options, and the device can be manipulated using voice control, gestures and touch.

At the South by South West (SXSW) conference in Texas earlier this month, Google demonstrated how Glass can use apps like sending and receiving email through the company's Gmail service.

A Google smartwatch could deliver email or text messages, location and map information or even coupons for a store the user walking past. And the messages could be passed on to Glass, or messages sent to Glass passed on to the smartwatch.

And in the idea of connectedness, a user's refrigerator could alert the watch or eye glasses that the user low on milk and eggs.

Just yesterday, Google filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to patent technology that enables Google Glass to control devices such as a garage door opener, a refrigerator with a control interface, a home alarm system or a copy machine.

"There would be a lot of commonality and synergy between [Glass and a smartwatch] in terms of both information and use," said Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group. "They could also be complimentary with the watch providing a better place to put certain kinds of sensors and to step in when the Glass product had to be removed."

"I think we are talking a family of products," he added. "There clearly will be people who will prefer the watch approach over the glass approach and this would allow Google to better explore both options."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at Twitter@sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed Gaudin RSS. Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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