Apple Watch, set to ship April 24, is backed by software development kits and research organizations that could usher in the next round of big data application development. And if Apple Watch manages to gain critical mass, you might even consider it one of world's largest sensor networks.

Apple Watch will cost $349 to $1099 for its mainstream models, according to details from the company's launch event earlier today. On the one hand, Apple has positioned the smartwatch as a consumer device that makes a high-end fashion statement -- with a highest-end model costing $10,000 or more. But on the other hand, Apple Watch's combination of hardware sensors plus SDKs (software development kits) could position the device for several B2B and B2C technology waves... including:

  • Healthcare IT such as patient monitoring, self-monitoring and global patient research studies.
  • Hospitality applications and services, helping wearers to check into hotels, enter rooms and more.
  • Internet of things (IoT) applications that track overall human activity across multiple environments.

Apple demonstrated a range of Watch apps during today's launch event. But most are traditional B2C offerings -- an American Airlines app that displays your boarding pass; a Starwood app that transforms your watch into a hotel room key; and various social media apps.
For data scientists, Apple Watch's hardware sensors and SDKs could warrant special attention. Salesforce.com and other enterprise software and cloud developers are extending their apps to Apple Watch, using the WatchKit developer platform. Plus, numerous medical researchers and university hospitals are using ResearchKit -- another development platform -- to write apps that gather data from iPhones. In theory, the Apple Watch could use WiFi or Bluetooth to pass sensor data to iPhones, which would forward the info to cloud-based big data platforms.

Sales Forecasts

Despite all the Apple Watch hype, predicting actual sales of the new smartwatch remains a guessing game. The watch requires an iPhone -- which means Apple Watch's success depends entirely on iPhone users who want to open their wallets a bit wider for a companion device.

No doubt, the target Apple Watch market is huge. Apple says it has sold 700 million iPhones since launching the smartphone revolution in 2007. Analysts think roughly 400 million of those are still actively used.

If Apple Watch achieves a 10 percent attach rate to iPhone, the near-term market could be 40 million Apple smartwatches. That's 40 million potential end points -- sensors -- gathering data from people and environments across the globe.

Still, Apple Watch will arrive with plenty of "ifs" when it starts shipping April 24. The biggest if of all: Will enough customers actually buy it?

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