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Would you rather skip pebbles or eat apples ?

Forget watches -- the next big thing in health hardware is the wrist implant
The Apple Watch introduced on stage at the Flint Center in Cupertino, California, on Tuesday, September 9, 2014 (screen capture: YouTube video)
The Apple Watch introduced on stage at the Flint Center in Cupertino, California, on Tuesday, September 9, 2014 (screen capture: YouTube video)

A few days ago, Apple announced a whole series of new devices that will definitely draw throngs of people to camp out for days outside of the Apple stores. I am one of the many people that on one hand, appreciates the quality and styling of Apple products, but on the other hand fails to understand the obsession with owning the latest and greatest Apple device. Apple owners know full well that they are paying a huge premium for the Apple name. Nevertheless, even with the downturn in the economy, there are so many people waiting in the harsh sunshine and rain, that you might even think that the Beatles were back in town.

One of the announcements, which was desperately waited for, was for the Apple watch. The pundits and the general public very anxiously waited to see if Apple would announce the watch at all, but if yes, what features it would have. Afterwards, the earliest reviews ranged from slightly negative to mostly positive. It is greatly expected that the combination of the new iPhone, the iPhone 6, and the Apple watch will be a huge success financially for Apple. And of course, the reviews already included opinions as to what is still needed, and what people hope will appear in version 2 of the Apple watch.

It is easy to think that the Apple watch, along with Samsung’s and Sony’s contributions, are the first foray into mobile wrist-based hardware. In the past, I have mentioned a company  by the name of Pebble which was arguably the first serious entry into the world of smart watches. There is an excellent comparison of the Apple watch with Pebble’s latest version of their smart watches, and it can be seen here. Not surprisingly, the winner between the two smart watches depends on what is of most value to you. If you are price conscious and want a smart watch today, Pebble is a great choice. But if you want one of the specific features in the Apple watch, then I have nothing to add.

I personally do not have a smart watch but if I were to buy one, I suspect that it would be a Pebble. The lower price, the full range of capabilities, the option for connectivity with both Apple and Android smart phones, and other features, make the Pebble far more attractive to me. One caveat: I am inherently quite anti-Apple for a whole range of reasons. I am sure that my decision is biased.

Actually, I think the next big leap for “wearable computing” will be (from the mid 2020’s and on) a wrist implant which displays everything and does everything that a smartwatch can. The display would shine through the wrist’s skin or be transmitted to high tech glasses (like Google Glasses). This wrist implant, which would be tiny, would include a GPS,  an RFID personal id and a whole range of sensors (for blood pressure, pulse, temperature, blood sugar and more). In this way, all of the functionality of smart watches would become second nature to all of us. When we would be looking for a restaurant, we would simply speak the request “show me the route to the restaurant” and we would be guided by audio and/or visual cues to our destination. The RFID identifier would allow us to pay seamlessly for clothes, food  and pretty much every item we purchase. If you combine many of the technologies that individual companies are working on now, and package them all as this small implant, the final product will be transformative.

From my description above, it follows that separate mobile phones will likely not be needed once an implanted wrist chip becomes commonplace. In the recent remake of the movie “Total Recall”, such a wrist based communication tool was shown (Click here and scroll down to the section on Phone Implant). And, as the public has come to realize, what is imagined  in science fiction movies, usually becomes reality a few years after the movie is out on DVD. Admittedly, we don’t yet have warp drive. But there is a worldwide contest, with a big prize, for the first person who develops a tri-corridor of the type that Dr. McCoy used on Star Trek.

Part of Apple’s magic is its ability to create markets for devices that may have even previously existed. Rather than try to compete directly with Apple, it is often sufficient to provide an alternative and thereby take a bite out of what has become a huge market pie. As people become more attuned to such wearable technology, they will embrace it more freely and earlier in life. From the late 2020’s and on, I imagine that newborns will regularly be chipped. Not only will the implanted GPS make the parents less wary of, God forbid, kidnappings or just having the child wander off, but the same implant will also help the parents avoid the horror of “crib death”. The benefits are clear. The general public will simply have to get over their discomfort with the idea of such implants inside of people.

I personally see all of this technology as a positive trend. I know that there are many people who disagree.  That is the beauty of our society – that we can openly disagree without fear. And this is why I can share my thoughts and then end off by saying…

Thanks for listening

About the Author
Dr. Nahum Kovalski received his bachelor's of science in computer science and his medical degree in Canada. He came to Israel in 1991 and married his wife of 22 years in 1992. He has 3 amazing children and has lived in Jerusalem since making Aliyah. Dr. Kovalski was with TEREM Emergency Medical Services for 21 years until June of 2014, and is now a private consultant on medicine and technology.
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