Are Watches Smarter than Glasses?

In this post, I want to tell you about two projects from our portfolio, where we use smartwatches. In the first one, smartwatches were used as a more than adequate substitute for smartglasses and in the second, as a powerful addition to an existing app.

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In the first of the two projects, we had our initial meetings with a large Styrian logistics company over three years ago. Back then, the idea was to equip all warehouse workers with smartglasses in order to make necessary info more readily accessible to them. The plan was good – it should be possible to assign orders to individual workers and to inform them about the locations and quantities of wares to be stocked or transferred. However, even though the idea really was good, putting it into practice did not work.

Already during the evaluation phase, it became quite clear that none of the smart glasses on the market were suitable for actual practical applications. The amazing marketing videos with their many use cases were cool to watch, but they promised things the actual devices couldn’t deliver. Their battery time, display size, wearing comfort and a couple of other things were simply not suited for use during an 8-hour shift. And this situation has not improved much since. Thus, we were sorry to have to put a hold on the project right then.

We try again

About a year ago, we then reanimated the project together with our client. This time, we decided to use smartwatches instead of smartglasses as the devices to display the data for the employees. Sure, the original use case of having the info always present before your eyes, but at the core, it was the hands-free solution we had wanted to achieve.

The location and quantity information about the warehouse items is sent directly to the individual smartwatches from a backend and can then be confirmed or edited by the workers. For instance, if there are fewer items in stock than there should have been, that information is directly put into the system, which provides a much shorter reaction time.

Another advantage of the watch is the direct interactions, which, crucially, are very similar to the ones we know from our smartphones. Of course, in the wonderful world of marketing, smartglasses offer voice interactions. But noisy surroundings and insufficient offline capabilities (not to mention accents or regional dialects) quickly put an end to that pipe dream.

This smartwatch solution has really been put to the test in a year of daily practical use and it does not disappoint. Every worker now gets a smartphone and two smartwatches. The second watch simply acts as a backup, in case a worker forgets to charge the first watch. In this case, they can simply switch to the second watch without having to make any adjustments or worry about the right settings.

The user feedback shows, that the smartwatches are a great ‘substitute’ for the smartglasses. They are more flexible and their operation is clear due the fact that it is very similar to a smartphone. Also, wearing a watch is a lot more natural for people than wearing glasses. Except for people who wear glasses anyway, but they have the opposite problem, because satisfactory smartglasses for spectacle wearers have yet to be made.

Smartwatch Pest Control

The second project I want to tell you about is a new development, where the smartwatch was used to simplify an existing workflow, as a companion for a pest control app. The usual application is the performance of preventive measures.

Basically, cases with different traps are put out, which have to be serviced regularly. In the best case (and that’s the case with most cases), the inspector finds that no pests are encased in the cases. Thus, they have to document, which worker has inspected which traps at what time. And that’s exactly the kind of use case which is perfect for a smartwatch.

The trap cases are listed on the watch and must simply be marked as free of pests by the inspector. And in case there is something encased in the case after all, the kind of pest and their quantity can be put into the system via the watch as well. After that, the end report is generated in the app, and sent to the system as well as to the back office and to the client.

So are smart watches smarter than smart glasses?

In my opinion, these are two great use cases for smartwatches. As I already mentioned, the watches here have some very important advantages over the glasses. And I think that it will still take some time for smartglasses to really be market-ready so they can be used for the kinds of applications that have been promised years. But luckily, many use cases that were originally conceptualized for the smartglasses, can already be put into practice using smartwatches.

And when, in a few years, smartglasses have progressed a little further, we will definitely try again. But for now, if you want an actual practical application, smartwatches are your way to go.

Sure, there is a discussion to be had about whether a watch *really* enables you to work hands-free, but it is a discussion to be had at another point in time. What’s undeniable is that smartwatches are easy to use and are accepted more readily by non-watch-wearers than smartglasses are by non-glass-wearers.

In Short: the advantages at hand (or wrist, as the case may be)

Smartwatches can extend the range of mobile apps as a further practical device to display and enter information. Their battery time is more than sufficient for an 8-hour shift. And lastly, their operation is intuitive and they can be interacted with irrespectively of loud noises or language barriers.