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New thinking, new technology for the creative sectors
A MediaTainment Finance supplement

Music-tech guru will.i.am is setting pulses racing with a new watch, panache and style...

 

Will.i.am, the US hit-making rapper and technology entrepreneur, and internationally-renowned architect Zaha Hadid recently stood on the stage at a WIRED2014 event to 

discuss their collaboration on a new smartwatch called PULS (pronounced “pulse”).

Shortly after, UK digital music service provider 7digital disclosed that it is providing the streaming music element inside PULS, which was made by will.i.am’s creative-tech
company i.am+.

This is a stand-alone smartwatch that can make calls, play music, access emails, offer voice navigation, the Internet and wireless technologies (3G, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS). It features a SIM card, so there is no required link to a smartphone. Hadid gave the device and its OLED screen that organic slick shape associated with her designs.

Wearable technology, where fashion melds with digital software, will be generating US$11.6bn in revenues globally by 2020, says  US research group MarketsandMarkets.

The most famous wearable device must be Google Glass. But, like several current inventions, it still comes across as a gimmick that neither the fashion industry (TechMutiny
Issue No.4) nor the tech universe knows how to turn into mass-market commerce yet.

But will.i.am’s i.am+ company is among a growing number of ventures determined to make a mark in this emerging sector by adding a music element.

In November, Apple will be unveiling the SDK (software development kit) guidelines aimed at developers producing apps for the Apple Watch, its own smart wristband, which is scheduled to launch early next year.

Although the slightest move by Apple (with US$164.5bn cash in the bank at the last count) makes news, Forbes magazine points out that the announcement of the Apple Watch is mega. It will “mark its first major entry in a new product category since the iPad,” which was originally released in 2010.

Details of what the Apple Watch can do remain limited, although financial services group American Express, automaker BMW and American Airlines are among a handful of brand owners to have created some test apps for it so far. And since Apple owns iTunes, the world’s biggest download music store and the music streaming service Beats Music, the Apple Watch is expected to feature music.

The digital tick-tock of the smartwatch has also lured Apple’s rival Microsoft. The PC software behemoth has reportedly filed an application with the US Federal Communications Commission to make a wireless wearable device.

As the competition to turn smartwatches into mass-market products heats up, other major tech brands are fighting for a piece of the territory. Sony has been doing so for a few years.

Its new minuscule CORE computer chip is being installed in smartwatches that can receive messages, store music, keep track of your physical fitness and alert you to what’s happening on your smartphone. Among its latest in the line is the Android-powered SmartWatch 3.

The 3G connectivity on Samsung’s Gear S smart wristwatch, which launched in August, means it can be used with or without a smartphone. You can make calls and have access to emails, text messages and listen to music, among other applications.

Electronic goods maker LG has launched its smart fitness band called Lifeband Touch. Navigation equipment manufacturer Garmin (Vívofit), printer maker Epson (heart rate monitor Pulsense) and games device manufacturer Razer (Nabu) are seeking attention in the business of fashionable multifunctional digital wrist devices.

These burgeoning consumer products look attractive, but whether they are indispensable is another matter. What they have in common is that they give users easy access to digital music.

Another wearable device category being talked about is the smart headphone. Muzik (www.muzikofficial.com), the socially connected wireless headphones launched in the US last year, enables users to share listening to music with their friends on social media by
tapping a side of the over-the-ear headphone…

To read a more in-depth version of this story, download the full edition of TechMutiny Issue No.8

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