May 01 2010
Gadgetry is in a critical state of change. Hardware has very slightly plateau-ed. Software is sharply in the ascendant. Apps are all. Stuff is struggling.
You won’t particularly notice this in the sense of there being a paucity of neat, glossy gadgets for me to tell you about in the months to come. But barring the Apple iPad, which, from what we know at the time of writing, isn’t quite as “magical” as Steve Jobs is determined we should believe, truly innovative hardware is quite thin on the ground for 2010 – while amazing software is the exciting growth field.
This may be why the star of January’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year seems, by popular consent, not to have been 3-D TV, which is what the industry wants to push but the public won’t (in my view) buy, but this bizarre concept with a bizarre name from the new Japan – France.
Maybe it was inevitable that the Withings (très français, hein?) WiFi internet bathroom scales would achieve the balance of wow-wee media coverage at the world’s keynote gadget fair. Bathroom scales that enable you to “share” your weight and body-mass index with your fascinated friends on the web or by Twitter – how 2010 is that?
Of course, there’s no need to share the measurements from your Withings. You can send them to a private website and study remotely, even on your iPhone, graphs of your weight etc – plus stats for any other household members who register. The Withings will know them the moment they step on the scales.
If all this strikes you as weird, be assured, it is. It’s not merely that discussing your health is all a bit un-British. No, the oddness is that the world that Withings is slowly but doggedly weaning us into is not actually that gimmicky; it’s the way we’re all very possibly going, hardware-wise.
Withings, interestingly, comes from a Paris company whose grand fromage, one Jean-François Kitten (honestly), was previously with the company producing the weirdest gadget of last year, an internet-connected plastic rabbit memorably called Nabaztag/tag. (See one of the archived segments of my video bulletin on this site.) But make no mistake, M Kitten is un homme sérieux. The technology he and his confrères are into is called (by them) “the Internet of Things”. And Kitten tells me by e-mail that, alongside Withings, which has more gossiping appliances on the way, he’s working with his Nabaztag/tag colleagues on a new company “which will act in the field of smart environments linked to the Internet of Things”.
Intriguing. Meanwhile, though the Withings scales may not appeal for their connected-ness, they do happen to be an unusually beautiful bathroom gadget, and not grossly expensive. So, perhaps consider a Withings – and see if the desire for an I-Share-Your-Weight device grows on you.