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July 23, 2014

Is the iWatch Now the iTime? Apple Lands New Patent for Smartwatch

The idea that Apple has been working on a smartwatch—referred to in many circles as the iWatch—has been probably one of the worst kept secrets ever, mostly figured out by sheer intuition and an assortment of news that pointed to just such a development. But a new development has emerged that all but proves the concept, if not necessarily the name. Specifically, that new development is a patent for a smartwatch device that covers several components contained within the device, and in the grandest Apple tradition, there's a lot lurking under this hood.

The patent in question--reportedly patent number 8,787,006—covers what's described as a “wrist-worn electronic device and methods therefore”, and is actually referred to in one illustration as the “iTime”. Quirks in nomenclature aside, the smartwatch in question offers a clever idea that really should have been seen coming; a means to interact with Apple's other devices, particularly the iPad and the iPhone. The device even has the capacity to interact with its own straps, which in turn bring in a set of sensors and similar components to offer new capability for other devices. There's room in here for a smart media player as well—which makes particular sense for a smartwatch—but there are also some other features in here that should really surprise even the most Apple faithful.

Some have begun to draw a link between the iPod nano and the iTime, a point that's particularly trenchant in light of the fact that people have been jury-rigging means to turn the iPod nano into a breed of smartwatch for some time now. Apple's patent language reportedly includes mention of the iPod nano, but augments it with things like accelerometers, GPS modules, wireless connectivity systems and the like. It also brings in what's described as a “personal wireless environment”, and though it isn't exactly fleshed out, it basically converts the iTime to a kind of universal connection device, patching into laptops, mobile devices, and other devices the way a more standard smartwatch might connect to just the mobile device. There's even room in here for gesture controls, allowing these devices to not only connect, but also receive orders from the iTime, making it almost a hub for these various spokes.

This is a big advance indeed, with a lot of potential to fundamentally destabilize the industry as it is known today. But it won't be alone in the field; it will have plenty of competitors to wage war against in the market, including some with first-mover advantage. A great place to see the extent of that competition is at the Wearable Tech Expo, set to run July 23 and 24 at the Javits Convention Center in New York City. A host of exhibitors will be on hand ranging from Sony to Amazon, from Google to the government of Singapore, showing off advancements in wearable technology and making presentations about the market as a whole.

Indeed, Apple won't be alone here, and the impressive nature of the iTime itself will likely only go so far in the face of the competition. In fact, all of Apple's exciting advances may be strictly necessary here in order to allow it to compete. Only time will tell just what it can ultimately do, or just what it will ultimately be named, but Apple certainly looks to have a worthwhile competitor on its hands.

Want to learn more about the latest in wearable technology? Be sure to attend Wearable Tech Expo, July 23 & 24 at the Javits Convention Center in New York City.  Stay in touch with everything happening at the event -- follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Adam Brandt

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