With all the advancements smartwatches have made in a relatively short space of time, it can sometimes be easy to forget about their most basic function: telling you the time.
Our wrists are now populated with high-octane, connected wearables that far outdo what past generations dreamt up, but very few, if any, have actually changed how we really view the time. Sure, you can change the style – digital or faux-analogue, the choice is yours – and the colours it's all presented in, but our attitude to time is yet to advance.
Looking to change that, though, is London startup Emit. Started by a pair of mechanical engineering students at the city's Imperial College, the aim is to offer the world a smartwatch that, at its core, helps you view your day differently. There's no LTE connectivity, constant stream of notifications or hordes of tracking modes, with the priority instead on the wearer's tasks, upcoming events and goals.
The smartwatch is currently available through Kickstarter for as little as £90 (which roughly translates to $115), with shipping expected to take place next May.
"We would often walk back home from university together and talk about how we never have enough time to do all the things we want," said Emit co-founder Stephen Titus. "As engineers, we wanted to solve this and realised that traditional watches don’t show you how to best use your time.
"We set out to design a simple and effective tool to change our mindset with regard to productivity and time. As students, procrastination often plagued our days and was the cause of unachieved goals. So we wanted something that constantly reminded us of our priorities and what we should be doing with our time.
"The idea was actually born out of a joke of thinking of making a deathwatch, one that would count down to your death. But we then realised that it would be really interesting to play on the psychology of scarcity to make our minds realise how valuable and irreversible time is. We decided to make use of technology to help change behaviour," he continued.
So, instead of having a smartwatch that logged your every moment, the pair decided to create a device that was focused on countdowns. Up to 10 can be set on the Emit at any given time and be swiped through, which Titus told us is a way to force the user into thinking about their priorities. These, naturally, may include day-to-day countdowns like getting to the end of a work day, or more distant events, like a marathon.
These are set using the Emit companion app, with users able to manually set titles and dates or sync over calendars to automatically create countdowns.
But as with any motivational tool, does Emit have the potential to lose its powers after prolonged use? Well, according to Titus, the startup believes the concept will work in the opposite way, and only grow in its importance to the wearer.
"We think wearing an Emit is like practising any discipline – it’s a practice. You need to consistently have it on your body to almost train your brain to remain focused on your priorities and visualise your goals.
"The physical presence is crucial for its role, and taking that away will also reduce Emit’s benefits. We don’t foresee it becoming redundant over a long period – if anything, we have found that it becomes increasingly instrumental in helping us stay committed to a project or mindset," he said.
Essential reading: What's next for smartwatches?
However, despite this very clear focus on keeping the user locked into their goals, the Emit does also have a couple of more traditional smart features, too. After receiving feedback from early testers, the company decided to incorporate a heart rate monitor and step counter.
And though this could perhaps be viewed as an unnecessary addition to the device, it does speak to the pair's engineering background, and, as Titus explains it, their passion for building. Having designed and manufactured a range of products, including Bosch hand tools, electric scooters and robotic arms, they have now progressed to what the Kickstarter community is backing as a viable smartwatch alternative. The Emit saw its goal met within an hour of going live on the crowdfunding platform, and still has weeks to run.
So, Emit is aiming to bring the world of smartwatches something different, all while giving people a new perspective on – but is it worth backing?
Well, despite this being the startup's first experience in crowdfunding, a lot of the finer points, which we often see delay projects, appear to be under control. Titus indicated that the design is pretty much finalised, with only tweaks to the thickness (Emit may look 2-3mm thinner by launch) expected between now and production.
Like many other UK startups, it has also had to partner with factories in China and explore further than its own borders in order to get production set for the post-campaign months.
As with any project, there's always risks attached to backing, but this appears to be as set as it gets, in terms of actual planning. And that means the only other key remaining question is whether you can buy into the concept.
We imagine the minimalist approach of Emit won't be for everyone, but it is refreshing to see a device take a different approach to being smart and telling the time. Whether the novelty would wear off, we imagine, depends on the user, but for goal-orientated types who want a smarter to-do list on their wrist, this might just be worth the investment.
How we test