Next Big Thing: Smarter watches

Think your Apple Watch is clever? It's a dunce compared to what's coming soon

Surely they can’t get more clever?

But this is no ordinary smartwatch, you see. Well, technically it is, but it’s been modified to do more than tell the time or alert you when you’ve got a fresh new life in Candy Crush. Thanks to Disney Research and Carnegie Mellon University’s EM-Sense technology, this watch is capable of detecting what object your hand is touching. That’s right, all those stupid, unconnected things you touch every day (door handles, saucepans, toothbrushes) have been instantly smarterised. Without the need to stick an RFID chip on them.

What is this new devilry?

Science. Most everyday objects emit tiny amounts of electromagnetic noise, and when we touch them, this signal travels through our bodies. It’s too faint for us to detect, of course, but by using a modified radio that can detect these signals – along with software to read their patterns – this smartwatch can recognise the signature electromagnetic noise emitted by the object you’re touching and use that info for new awesomeness. It could be the feature smartwatches need to go from nerd-cessory to essential life companion.

But… why? I can tell the difference between a toothbrush and a saucepan already.

We’d like to think you can, yes. But imagine turn-by-turn navigation popping up on your watch when you grip a steering wheel, or your lights turning off when you touch the handle of your front door. Get the picture? It has the potential to bring smart automation to a whole new level. Don’t expect to see it in the Apple Watch 2, though – there’s still shrinking to do to make it fit into today’s timepieces. But once that happens, it should only need a library of electromagnetic signatures and some companion apps.