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August 10, 2016Amit Jotwani
Danny Dong, co-founder and CEO of iMCO, wondered what life would be like if we didn’t have to rely on screens to get the information we want and need. After witnessing countless people checking their phones while on the go, he began to redefine how people carry technology with them every day.
He set out to create the CoWatch, the world’s first Amazon Alexa-integrated smartwatch, to help break the habit of constantly checking a screen for updates. Now, users can ask for the latest weather reports, check the time, and set reminders with their voice and Alexa.
Learn how Dong and his partners worked with Alexa Voice Service (AVS) to enable the CoWatch to access a growing number of Alexa skills through the Alexa Skills Kit.
By early 2016, Dong had a working smartwatch prototype. It had a beautiful design, but it needed an OS to bring it to life. That’s when Dong contacted Leor Stern, co-founder and CEO of Cronologics Corporation.
Stern’s team, assembled from Android and Google veterans, had built a new software platform for smart wearables that helps amplify and support smartphone features. “We built Cronologics platform to unlock the true potential of the smartwatch. We don’t see [a smartwatch] as a tiny, limited extension of a smartphone. It’s an independent device with smart features of its own, not dependent on a smartphone.”
Shortly after Dong partnered with the Cronologics team, Stern began discussions with Amazon how to bring the power of Alexa to the smartwatch. Dong knew he wanted to create a completely new type of smartwatch—one that gives users a choice of how they consume information, either on a screen or by voice.
“We’d been talking to Amazon for a few months, bouncing around ideas like how cool it would be to have Alexa on a watch,” Stern said. “We were also talking with iMCO about the CoWatch when AVS came out. It fit beautifully into our plans.”
The Cronologics platform makes it easy to scroll through messages with a few taps, no phone required. And with Alexa, customers can ask for the latest scores and weather reports, or set reminders and alarms. Now, almost anything you can do with Alexa on an Echo, you can do with CoWatch.
Once Amazon announced the Alexa Voice Service (AVS), Cronologics and iMCO worked together to integrate it into the CoWatch. Stern says they already had the basic building blocks. The CoWatch had a built-in microphone and speaker, and Cronologics was a new wearable platform with access to an array of cloud services.
Stern’s lead developer drove the integration process and voice-enabled the CoWatch in less than a week.
“The API worked for us pretty much out-of-the-box,” he said. “The core implementation took three days, plus some troubleshooting and optimization on our end. But doing the actual integration work was very quick.”
CoWatch is a new class of smartwatch and as expected, it presented some challenges.
For example, the team dealt with the on-the-go nature of the watch’s microphone. Stern says unlike a stationary device, it’s more difficult to get clean audio samples from a mobile device because of background noise and interference.
“The Alexa Voice Service team has been extremely engaged, attentive and highly supportive. We really couldn’t ask for more,” Stern said. During testing and certification, his team worked intimately with the AVS team, verifying the audio samples sent were the highest quality to maintain the user experience. “We’ve all been going back and forth, with lot of testing and feedback iterations to make sure everything’s going well.”
The CoWatch effort was crowdfunded via an Indiegogo campaign. By the first week of June 2016, the campaign exceeded goal by 280 percent. At the same time, iMCO started shipping the first production devices to the early backers. In the next few months, you’ll see them available in more and more retail channels.
That makes the CoWatch a “first” in several ways: The first truly smartwatch by wearable-tech producer iMCO, the first smartwatch to run the new Cronologics platform and the first Alexa-enabled smartwatch from any manufacturer.
“From the first time we switched on the Alexa integration with the Cronologics platform and CoWatch, it’s just been a revelation. It’s a whole new way to use your watch and a whole new way to interact with Alexa,” Stern said. “We’re excited to get Cronologics and the CoWatch on people’s wrists so quickly. Alexa is a huge part of that.”
What started as a mission to break people’s habit of constantly checking their phones has evolved into a brand-new type of wearable. The CoWatch puts full control on the user’s wrist, whether it’s asking Alexa for the time or glancing at a beautifully designed interface. The choice is in the consumer’s hand—and on their wrist.
Follow these three steps to get started with your own Alexa-enabled product or service.