Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Apple Watch…And So It Begins

Barring its limited battery life, square design, and lack of modularity I LOVE THE APPLE WATCH! What??? But Tom, don't you champion long-lasting (i.e. infinite) battery life, a circular design, and modularity? YES!!! But….Apple Watch is a good start and basically is the first true "smart watch" in terms of its utility.

First, the cons:

1) An 18 hour batter life is lame; a watch should NEVER run out of power (or if it does a user should easily be able to hold to the sun, wind, or shake to recharge.) 

2) A square design is square. Circular, a al Sensorstream Pi, is more visually appealing and also provides for both a better ergonomic fit and larger relative display area.

3) Lack of modularity. This is a big one. So basically Apple has so constricted the consumer that yet another cottage industry of Apple Watch repair is going to spring up. A watch isn't a phone; consumers want customized, personalized, interchangeable, unique, and repairable wearable systems.

The good:

1) Initial functionality looks great; lots of apps for watch face, health, fitness, etc.

2) Material selection; home run on having a variety of price points from entry level all the way up to 18K gold. The international market is going to eat up those gold watches like nobody's business. Societal stratification? Yes, but having a gold case is a core enabling factor in portable wealth (see previous blog posts about the importance to emerging countries of having a gold watch case.)

3) Marketing; fantastic approach launch presenting functionality in the classic sublime Apple-ality. No doubt the Microsoft "RistWatch" is currently under development.

4) Apple Pay; True mobile pay like consumers have always wanted. Tap-and-go. Perfect! And to think, Mastercard, Visa, and Amex PAY Apple to use THEIR financial networks!!! Hahaha, what a coup!

5) Ecosystem; Arguably direct linkage to the best digital ecosystem rather than just a piggyback approach.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


Of the three disruptive innovations this blog champions, and what the Sensorstream Pi Smart Watch has been working on for years, is ability to tap-and-pay from a wrist watch.  That's precisely why we first invented the analog NFC-enabled watch face dial.

Anyone familiar with NFC technology is well aware that this has been a commercially viable option for years, perhaps even over a decade, as Hong Kong residents have been using NFC from a special watch to pay for subway rides for quite some time.

Why the delay in getting this to the USA? The duopolies of Mastercard and Visa (and a lesser, but growing extent, American Express, Discover, and PayPal) have been slow on the uptake.

Oddly enough, it took Apple to force them to come to the table--by actually having to pay Apple for the privilege of using Apple Pay no less--to spur growth in their very core function; digital (electronic) payments! Surely the irony of this situation cannot be lost on everyone.

Now would be a good time for mobile payment provider Square to "pivot" (Silicon Valley parlance for changing your business model in the face of imminent extinction) to a pure-play wearable payment provider lest they become another victim of Apple Pay.

The time is ripe and the transition should be completely possible given their existing financing in place, why not become the pure-play wearable payment provider? There's no better time nor opportunity in the payment space than teaming up with one of the major Swiss watch manufacturers and "pushing down" the technology from high-end to middlewear consumer watches. The solution initially could be as simple as a custom NFC chip in the face of the watch.

Square, give NXP Semiconducters a call (31 40 272 9233). Ask to speak with Hans Rijns and develop a custom chip that can be used in ANY existing analog watch for wearable mobile pay. It's not too late.

You heard it here first.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Apple's First Victim, Pebble

Let's give credit where credit is due, Pebble essentially beat both Apple and Samsung to the smart watch market, but it isn't really going to matter shortly as the Apple Watch rolls out. Samsung's presence in the sphere has been lackluster at best, but Samsung has the financial heft to survive, and possibly clone the Apple design features. Pebble, however, is in a tough spot and I believe they are going to be the first brand casualty unless they embrace modularity in their future designs and also strive to incorporate either wireless or solar charging. Mobile pay is a given. 

Some thoughts if you're a small (relative to Apple or Samsung, we're all small) smart watch company:

1) If you don't have an ecosystem to plug into you have a problem.
2) Social Networking, Mobile Pay, and Wireless Charging are the future; can your watch do those?
3) Think Modular; interchangeable components give consumers a choice, give manufacturers a choice, and will ultimately provide a multitude of unique looks, functions, and solutions.

High-end mechanical watches should weather the coming storm; they actually have the opportunity to EXPAND into the smart watch revolution, but most are asleep at the wheel.

Apple's next victim? Probably Swatch.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Think Modular

Why modular? A modular design offers several key advantages for smart watches that the big manufacturers are not considering (or choosing not to pursue, because they believe the best way to profit is from selling whole goods.) As always, I am ready to talk with the respective CEOs of Apple, Samsung, and Rolex to help them choose the right smart watch case--the Sensorstream Pi! (Apple Pi sure sounds cool, doesn't it? Wink, Wink!)

1. Modularity helps save the environment, because consumers only buy what breaks or what needs to be upgraded. What?! How could this be? Yes it is true, wearers of (all) watches, and consumers of most products for that matter, prefer to simply upgrade the performance than swap out the entire system. Historically it just has been impractical. No longer. It is as easy as a threaded case. The net result of this is the ability to up cycle into newer and newer electronics while keeping the watch design you like. Car manufacturers should have done this decades ago; the classic look everyone loves with modern safety and performance characteristics.

2. Modularity offers compatibility; imagine the advantage of being able to swap out both upgraded software and hardware by a VARIETY of providers? Why stifle competition when you can have it compete against each other for superior performance?

3. Dropping off your 18K Gold Apple Watch at the pawn shop isn't' cool, especially when you get 15 cents on the dollar for the value of your gold; I mean really, what else besides a modular approach will work? Threading in a new electronics package for a fraction of the "buy-the-system-new" price WILL work.

Demand modularity at every event, every press conference (yes I'm talking to you reporters that have never manufactured anything in your lives, yet always get the invites to the launch events), because modularity saves the environment, offers consumers more choices in hardware/software packages, and also maintains the value of your investment in expensive watch cases (which by the way, should be the de facto goal--the vast majority of the world population needs a portable, functional form of wealth. Can you say Titanium Gold case?)

Think Modular.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Apple Pay

Before there was Apple Pay, there was…Birdie NFC! That's right high-tech readers, an NFC chip (specifically an NXP NTAG203 chip) was loaded into a golf ball marker and given out free across the United States for golfers to pay for drinks at the turn, rounds of golf, and even to electronically start a golf cart. So why hasn't anyone heard about this device or launched it to the top of every financial news website? Because my friends, a party doesn't get started until the cool people come--that is Apple's lasting strength; even though they are late to the NFC game (let's face it, Hong Kong has been using wrist watches with NFC chips for a DECADE to get access to the subway, pay for tickets, etc) they will drive its adoption across the country.

Why all this chatter about golf markers and Apple Pay? Simple: for those of you who missed the product launch, Apple has both new phones and watches. But this tech evangelist feels the greatest push is going to be coming from Apple Pay which will eventually migrate from the iPhone to the Apple Watch. This is old news to anyone living in Hong Kong. This is also old news to anyone familiar with NFC technology in Europe. But the sheer power of Apple's balance sheet will now drive the 1st of three great innovations in OUR use of wearables.

1) Wearable Pay (aka Tap-And-Pay)

2) True Social Networking.

3) Wireless Charging.

Keep your eyes out for advances in the next 2 steps; probably the biggest unmentioned factor from the Apple Watch launch is the ripple effects it will have on both the high-end and medium-end (Apple doesn't make low-end) markets of watches globally. Their use of an 18K gold watch case was very, very telling. The Swiss are about to get their cuckoo clocks cleaned!

If you're a Swiss watch maker, contact me; it is still not too late to save the Swiss Watch industry and I have the secret sauce: M O D U L A R

PS--Thank you to all my readers for making this the #1 SMART WATCH BLOG IN THE WORLD!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Swiss Watch Industry Vulnerable to Apple Watch

Sensorstream claims the entire Swiss watch industry is vulnerable to significant declines based on the Apple Watch release.

Leading smart watch design company Sensorstream claims that the entire Swiss watch industry is vulnerable to decline based on the Apple Watch release.

"The Apple Watch release, particularly the high-end watch cases made from 18K gold, will have a significant and lasting impact on the entire Swiss watch industry," commented Sensorstream founder Tom Rapko.

"For several years we have predicted the end game for smart watches is going to be the fusion of Swiss watch quality and the core functionality of a smartphone. It appears Apple is already well on their way to making this happen," Tom continued.

Sensorstream recently was awarded the design patent for a circular smart watch case from the USPTO and is betting the future of the industry will tack towards modularity, with a focus on "upcycling" newer and newer electronics into existing watch cases.

"The die has been cast, and these venerable Swiss watch companies should remember well how they dismissed the quartz crystal revolution in the 1970s; the smart watch revolution will eclipse even the impact of the quartz crystal," Tom added.

Sensorstream and Pi are registered trademarks. The Sensorstream Pi smart watch case has been awarded a 14-year US Patent.  Sensorstream is a start-up company based in California focused on disruptive wearable technology. All images and content Copyright Sensorstream 2010-2014.

Thomas H. Rapko

(805) 245-0681

Saturday, September 13, 2014

They should. As a nascent smart watch developer, I can assure you that the industry is nearly beholden to Apple's Watch for the simple reason that the company is so powerful it often dictates the prevailing standards. Particularly alarming for the Swiss should be Apple's release of an 18K gold version of its smart watch. Sensorstream's belief for some time has been that the smart watch will become the fastest and largest adopted consumer electronics product ever released. Indeed, smart watches will drive disruptive innovations in social networking, entertainment, and commerce. The company that can figure out how to combine the look and feel of a Swiss luxury watch with the core functionality of a smart phone stands to reap tremendous profits, and Apple already seems positioned to win. The only chance small start-ups like Sensorstream, or the entire Swiss watch industry for that matter, has is leveraging the electronics display tooling paid for by our large competitors and utilizing open source software like Android wear. Combine those two factors with a modular design and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. With a potential market of 7 billion users, the end game will leave a handful of industry giants controlling the market within their ecosystems and a massive number of companies competing for any extra wrists.

Tom Rapko