The VICE Channels

    Apple's Rumored iWatch Could Be Your Own Personal Surveillance Machine

    Written by

    Adam Clark Estes

    There are a lot of useless goons out there on the Internet trying to tell you what Apple's doing next. They're the fanboys that posted all those blurry pictures of fake iPhone 5 cases on their fanboy blogs and will not shut up about the inevitable arrival of an Apple television set. They love to speculate and they have great imaginations. They're just not right all that often.

    If you're going to listen to anybody about the future of Apple products, you should listen to the dude that used to build them. Bruce Tognazzini worked at Apple for 14 years, where "he designed Apple’s first human interface and wrote eight editions of the Apple Human Interface Guidelines," according to his website. Now, he's a blogger (of course) and a consultant (oh God) and a performer (the fuck?) and an "expert witness" (usually not a good sign) and a pilot and, like, six other things. He also invented the viewfinder that you probably have you your digital camera. You get it. This guy's accomplished, an original Apple guy and probably comes equipped with a monster-sized ego. Nevertheless, when he talks about Apple products, I'm actually inclined to believe him.

    Now, allow me to get to the point. A lot of the fanboys mentioned above are kind of obsessed with this iWatch idea. It's a good idea! The rumors that've been floating around cyber space include everything from a watch that's a glorified iPod Nano to a watch that comes with a built-in projector. Tognazzini blogged about his own ideas about this so-called iWatch project this week. In addition to his Apple insider knowledge—which is admittedly out-of-date since he hasn't worked there in two decades—it seems like he's actually talked to some current Apple employees about this. This is all to say that even if his ideas don't make it into the iWatch, they could end up in another smartwatch. Some of them are a little creepy.

    Smartwatches actually already exist. There's the Pebble smartwatch, a Kickstarter phenomenon that just started shipping. Something called the Cookoo, something else called the Martian that you can talk to. Tognazzini says they all stink, basically. The real "killer applications" of a smartwatch should and would change the world. The first thing he mentions is straight out of a spy movie. In effect, it could work like a personal identification chip that you wear on your wrist.

    Basically, the iWatch would verify your identity when you put it on your wrist. It could then communicate with your iPhone, your iPad, your MacBook and, not to speculate too much about the future, possibly your own home. The iWatch could communicate with other devices via Bluetooth. No need to type in a passcode because your iWatch knows you're you and your iPhone knows your iWatch. That's kind of a lot of Apple products ruling your life, but it's not much worse than it is now, is it?

    This is where things get cool. When you have a piece of sophisticated electronics attached to your body, the possibilities are endeless. Tognazzini is thinking "sensors":

    The iWatch will incorporate a variety of sensors. Certainly one thrust of these sensors will be sports/health data capture, inferring walking based on arm swing, detecting climbing or diving based on a pressure sensor, etc., etc. The more sensors, the better. A temperature and pressure sensor pressed against the skin could prove useful for medicine.

    Similarly, he thinks that an iWatch equipped with Near Field Communication (NFC) technology could do away with credit cards and cash for payment. (The iPhone's too clunky anyways.) How cool would that be!

    Cool and creepy share a border. Put a GPS chip in a watch and not only does it know who you are, it knows where you are. This technology is getting sophisticated, too. No longer do the satellites know that you're within five meters of a certain street. It'll know your altitude, the weather, how fast you're walking, etc. etc. It could even be enough data to fix Apple Maps, especially the 3D version that currently makes everything looks like an acid trip:

    Using pressure data from millions of watches, Apple could build a precision altitude map of the world. This map would indicate true altitudes everywhere that iWatch wearers travel. The granularity would be several orders of magnitude greater than ever before attempted for a wide-area map at a cost several orders of magnitude less than Flyover.

    Tognazzini has more ideas. Like, a lot more. It's worth reading his post and wondering a little bit. Don't wonder too much, though. You might turn into one of those fanboys everybody hates.

    Image via ADR Studio