Smart Watches: Car Industry Opening the Road to a Larger Market?

By September 19, 2013

With the launch of the Nissan Nismo smart watch, the Japanese automobile manufacturer may well be opening the way towards new markets for smart watches and other wearable devices.

Earlier this month, almost in unison with the launch of Samsung’s smart watch the Galaxy Gear, Japanese auto-maker Nissan unveiled a preview of the new device it is calling the Nismo Watch, the first-ever watch designed to connect you to your car. Up to now smart watches have been more or less thought of as smartphone accessories, but now this wearable device seems to be pointing towards new markets. This initiative demonstrates a new trend in connectivity, as Jean-François Belorgey, a partner at global business services specialist Ernst&Young points out: “Having a wearable device that basically connects car and driver opens up a range of new possibilities, as up to now in-car connectivity has centred on links with the world outside the vehicle.”

New approach: info exchange with the user

It is essentially sports brands that have made wearable device popular. Until recently they have seemed rather ‘futuristic’, but are now gradually spreading into our daily lives, as evidenced by for example the Nike + programme, which already provides athletes with biometric data – distance covered, number of calories burned, etc – via its SportWatch GPS. There are also devices such as the Oximeter, recommended by the medical profession, which track patients’ heart rates. Now it is the turn of the automobile industry to address this market. Nissan is hoping to popularise its Nismo Watch – which was originally developed for the use of its stable of racing drivers – with a wider audience. Worn on the wrist, the device enables an exchange of information between the driver and the on-board computer. So both car and driver are for instance equipped to check on the driver’s heart rate, plus levels of stress and fatigue, with a view to ensuring the best possible driving experience. Nissan is however aiming to go beyond providing a mere set of performance sensors; the Japanese automobile manufacturer is hoping its device will engender a new approach to driving, one aspect being connectivity to social networks.

Technology applicable in other markets?

Jean-François Belorgey believes that other industry sector players ought to begin right away incorporating this kind of technology, which is still very new, into their products, arguing that, taking the example of the car industry: “Economies of scale should allow manufacturers to incorporate similar technologies into new models without prohibitive cost to the customer.” Wearable technologies are already available in niche markets such as defence and medicine, and incorporating a self-carried connected device into a product could well help to increase market penetration for the manufacturers. However, Nicolas Bargas, a consultant at Paris-based Nexton Consulting warns however that we should not get carried away too quickly by such ideas. “These connected devices are still quite bulky and rather expensive and on the whole designed for niche markets, at least at the present time,” he points out.

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