Fossil MetaWatch: The Personal Grid is here

The folks at Fossil Watch sent me the MetaWatch, a watch that is in constant communication with my smartphone to send me notifications in real-time. This is a great start to making the Personal Grid a reality.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor

I recently shared my vision for the "Personal Grid" where all of my gadgets work together to leverage the abilities of each to my benefit. The smart folks at Fossil Watch share that vision, and sent me a prototype version of the MetaWatch to test for them. I was so excited to put the MetaWatch to work that I bought a smartphone that works with the watch, and am I glad I did. The MetaWatch is already showing me the benefits of the Personal Grid in the real world.

Check out the Fossil MetaWatch in photos

Image Gallery: The Fossil MetaWatch in photos.
Image Gallery: Charge
Image Gallery: Charge

The MetaWatch is not a smart watch in the traditional sense. It isn't a computer on your wrist, nor is it a Dick Tracy phone. Instead Fossil has taken the smarter path with the MetaWatch and made it a display you wear on your wrist. The watch communicates with a smartphone over Bluetooth, and displays the phone's time, weather and notifications in real-time.

I believe this approach of making the MetaWatch an extra display is a smart one, with advantages over producing a watch that does too much. The last thing I want is another gadget, especially my watch, that requires maintenance and software updates. I don't want to be thinking about my watch, I just want it to give me the pertinent information I need at a glance. The MetaWatch shines in this regard, and it has already revolutionized my daily routine. Passing on making the watch into a full-blown computer, an approach others have taken, also makes for a simple device with outstanding battery life.

So what does the MetaWatch do? When my smartphone receives a text message, email or phone call, the MetaWatch vibrates on my wrist gently to let me know something is coming. I glance at the watch which shows me the message for a second or two, then it goes back to the default time display. This simple handsfree notification puts me in charge of my own time, as I can decide if the incoming message is important enough to deal with right away or save it for later.

I get dozens of messages every day and this notification system on the MetaWatch has revolutionized the way I deal with them. Prior to getting the MetaWatch I would take the phone out of my pocket every time a message came in to see if it's important. That's changed with the MetaWatch in the picture; over 90 percent of incoming messages don't require my immediate attention, so after glancing at the watch I return to my business. The smartphone stays nestled in my bag or pocket where it lives most of the time.

This doesn't sound like a big benefit, but in practice it has been huge. I still react quickly to really important messages, but I waste no time on all of those not so important. The Meta Watch has put me in control over my time, a very good thing.

Fossil has used interesting display technology on the MetaWatch similar to e-Ink that uses very little power on a constant display. It has a mirrored tinge to it, and reminds me of the mirrored scroll bar display on the original Kindle eReader. It is perfectly viewable in direct sunlight, a rarity for electronic displays.

The MetaWatch is not aimed at consumers, although I suspect Fossil will sell a few to them when it is available in the near future. The company is instead aiming the MetaWatch at the developer crowd, as its open source platform is perfect for developers to build all kinds of applications that can interact with the phone. The platform is cross-platform, currently working on Android and BlackBerry, with an eye toward iOS compatibility.

The simple notification system that will ship with the MetaWatch is useful as I've noted, but once developers start tapping into the system the sky's the limit. I can already envision apps that would rock on the MetaWatch that would extend its utility in the real world.

Imagine you are sitting in a restaurant with friends and/or family, and your MetaWatch vibrates. You glance down and see that your best buddy has just checked in at the same restaurant using FourSquare. With a simple alert you can track him down and say hi. I suspect this would be simple to do as the smartphone already knows your buddy is here, and through geolocation on the phone where you are. This is only one use that can be developed for the MetaWatch, and there are no doubt many others where a simple notification would add value to the user.

The folks at Fossil know watches, and their approach to the MetaWatch has really impressed me. They understand that a watch must simply work, or users will not wear it for long. This understanding has built what looks to be a solid investment for developers to build up the MetaWatch ecosystem. I can't wait to see where this goes as I think it's going to be big.

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