The iBand and the future of wearable computing

I recently signed up for App.net (a paid Twitter alternative) and have quite enjoyed the conversations in which I’ve found myself involved. Two of the more interesting discussions have been about the future of the Apple TV (more on that later) and Apple’s rumored wearable iOS device that Michael Norton (@zenimpulse – ADN) recently dubbed the iBand.

If you haven’t seen the hundreds of posts about it yet, let me fill you in. On Sunday, The New York Times published a blog entry about Apple’s rumored ‘iWatch’ and suddenly the Internet exploded with theories, rumors, and various people shouting that they know a guy that knows a guy, etc. Is it true? Only Apple knows for sure, but that hasn’t stopped speculation from clogging up the Interwebs.

Today, a group of us on ADN were discussing the possibilities of a wearable device that paired with our iPhones, iPads, and Macs and enabled us to do things that we currently can’t. It’s all wild speculation, of course, but it didn’t stop us from dreaming. As the discussion progressed, it became clear that what Apple might be building is much more than a watch, but an entirely new accessory to existing computing technology. It’s no surprise that most of us had already read Bruce Tognazzini’s thoughts on the rumored device, so it directed much of our discussion.

We were quickly divided into two reasonable (and polite) camps: those that believe an iBand would be an amazing device capable of changing how we interact with the technology around us, and those that believe it would be unnecessary in a world where we’re already too connected. One of the fundamental differences of opinion came from how each person views the rumored device: Do I need more from a watch? Can this even be considered a watch or is it something more?

Here are a list of items we discussed as potential features for the rumored iBand:

  • Syncs with iPhone, iPad, iPod, and Mac
  • Can be used as an authentication key for any of your devices, optionally disabling passcodes and passwords on your device when in proximity
  • Uses biometric sensors and/or an identification challenge to remain secure, preventing a thief from gaining access to your devices (or your house, or your car, or any other compatible tech-integrated object)
  • Captures data in a fashion similar to a Nike FuelBand or a FitBit, storing accelerometer, locations, elevation and more for synchronization with your devices when in proximity
  • Can be used to receive notifications from your devices including app notifications, email notifications, iMessages, phone call alerts, alarms and calendar events, and other items of interest (such as the restaurant you like is only a block away and is having a lunch special; you have plenty of time before your next scheduled meeting to have lunch, pick up your dry cleaning, and get back to the office)
  • Can tell time
  • May eventually come in multiple colors or have a removable band so that 3rd-parties can design new ones that fit your lifestyle and sense of fashion
  • Will have a simplified interface that is focused on receiving data from your devices, not replacing them entirely
  • Could serve as an external FaceTime camera and speakerphone (Dick Tracy would be proud!)

So there you have it. While it may not be everything to everyone, it certainly hits on a need or three of many humans out there. One of the biggest arguments against such a device is that you already have your iPhone with you, why can’t you just take it out of your pocket and do all these things? In the case of notifications, the benefit would be so you could see who is calling or messaging you without having to do those things, which would be very useful if you’re in a business meeting and are waiting for an important call from another client or are receiving an emergency message from a loved one. Plus, with control over what does and doesn’t get pushed to the iBand, you could ensure that important notifications show up on your wrist and other notifications are simply ignored in your pocket and left on your lock screen or in notification center to be reviewed at a later time.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you think Apple should release an iBand? Do you have other ideas on what could make it better that I haven’t listed?

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