Sunday, March 16, 2014

Smart Ring Roundup

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them. 

Sauron, Mordor, Middle Earth.

Wait a minute ... Smart Rings?

Yep, thats right. The social and technology direction towards clunky and fashion challenged "wearable" technology has migrated 6 inches from the new smart watch on your wrist, to your middle finger. Glasses. Watches. Bracelets. And now, rings.

These newest additions to the "Geek Chic" lineup may hold some promise, and will certainly be a lot of fun to play with. I don't think Middle Earth or Frodo need to worry about being ruled by any of these rings.  They will certainly be much easier to break than trekking through Mordor to find the fires of Mt. Doom (if you need to save the world by destroying it).

The History ...

I think it is fascinating that technology has finally come to our finger. As they say, what was old has become new again. Through out history rings have been symbols and enabled access, granted privileges and conveyed power.

Signet rings have been used to seal documents with wax, such as this signet ring from ancient Egypt.
In the bible, there are three instances (at least) of rulers giving their signet rings to someone else as a way to convey their power, their authority to them. Pharaoh and Joseph are one such example. This article highlights the biblical aspects of rings, seals, and power. 

It seems inevitable that technology would eventually catchup with history.

We have all had family rings. Engagement rings are passed from mother to daughter. Fathers leave special jewelry to their sons. Rings are special to us. They have meaning that transcend other jewelry. They can mean "Im promised to someone", "I'm married, hands off", "I belong", "I am a fan" or "I am wealthy". Many things.

Rings have also been used as security devices such as the famous Captain Midnight decoder ring from the 1950s, and the more recent Secret Decoder Ring from Think Geek. Okay, those aren't serious examples but you get the point.

This Gizmodo Article is good background and a decidedly downer of an article about the current state of the technology.

The Current Rings ...

Wearable technology is hot, hot, hot. By the time you see this someone will have yet another smart ring on the market or on a crowdsourced funding site. So, please don't take this as a comprehensive list. It is just the first three models I have found. Only one of which is likely to have any staying power. One thing I have noticed is that they aren't staying up late designing catchy names for any of these products. I have a watch called "The Pebble". Not "The eWatch", or "Nifty Watch".

Smarty Ring - The swiss army knife of smart rings. It will do notifications, has a scrolling display,
                           is blue tooth 4 LE connected and allows you to control your phone.
It is waterproof and has a wireless charger. Battery lasts 24 hours. Yikes. $275. Double Yikes. Ships in May 2014.

NFC Ring - This model actually stands the best chance of making it. It does not have a battery, just a near field communication (NFC) chip. This makes the ring a NFC tag or equivalent of a smart card. This has all kinds of potential applications. Parking meters, access control in buildings, smart door locks on the home, lots of stuff. The circuitry is smaller and easier to implement, so the device ends up being more stylish and rugged. This is truly the 21st century equivalent of the Pharaohs signet ring. I have one on order.  30 british pounds. Ships in May 2014.

Ring - This is perhaps the most ambitious of the rings I saw. It's cool feature is that it senses and translates finger/hand gestures to text, commands and authorization. Think drawing characters in mid-air. It is non-symmetrical (thicker on one side, thinner on the other) and only has one LED. Seems a bit more fragile than others, not waterproof. It does notifications too. $185. Ships in July 2014.

Closing Thoughts...

Since most of these rings will go on our right hand, I think they will suffer a bit more abuse in our right-hand-dominant society. I feel bad for lefties that are married, since it will not be possible to use these rings on the same hand as a wedding ring, engagement ring, etc.

The rings that stand the best chance of making it in the market are the ones that do what the customer needs, simply and effectively.

We can look forward to more of these, just as the Pebble ushered in a wave of smart watches. Will this technology make it into the mainstream business & government world? Perhaps. Time will tell. Security applications are the first ones to come to mind. I will do reviews in this blog as my ring(s) show up.

1 comment:

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