Wearables: building cross-platform wearable apps with Visual Studio and C# (Part 2)

Please see: Creating beautiful cross-platform apps for iOS, Android and Windows with Visual Studio. Part I. User Interface

(this is a multi-part series on mobile cross-platform technologies available with Visual Studio)

Microsoft Bing predicts wearables to be the hottest trend in 2015. You can check Bing Predictions technology trends right here: http://www.bing.com/trends/us/predictions/technology. According to these predictions, wearables in 2015 are even more important than personal digital assistants, home automation, 3D printing and virtual reality gaming.  This post continues the series on wonders you can do with cross-platform C# and Visual Studio tools on all kinds of devices: Android, iOS, Windows and now getting to even smaller form factors.

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So what are the wearables today: at least devices that are available to developers with existing or upcoming SDKs and APIs? Wearables are definitely in the IoT category: smartwatches, bands, things that we wear on our body to take body-specific measurements. The evolution of watches started a very long time ago, literally centuries ago, with the watch becoming more of a fashion item. Later, fitness bands created a new category of smart wearable devices.

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Let’s compare some wearable devices available today. If we attempt to classify them, they differ in sensors, functionality, price and purpose. In 2015 we will get an idea of market share each of them have, but the most interesting point: devices you see below can be accessed or programmed with C# and Visual Studio!

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Wearables APIs: What’s in common

From the app prospective, since wearables are so lightweight as a platform, they commonly make use of several API tiers that are more specific to small devices:

  • Actionable Notifications: wearables make an extensive use of notifications, including actionable notifications, i.e. those that call back into the host device app, like a phone. You can think of a actionable notification as a message with multiple attached actions-buttons. Android Wear SDK gives a good example of these.
  • Glance, Watchface, Tiles etc – ways to present readable information on the screen. Android SDK has CanvasWatchFaceService for example, which allows developers drawing the face. Microsoft’s concept of tiles is perfect for wearables developers.
  • Apps (optional) – some wearables may or may not have deployable apps (depending on the device and platform) . With apps come specialized controls that can present information on the small screens.
  • History (cloud APIs) – typically wearables synchronize with the phone device and that device in tern synchronizes with the cloud
  • Form factors: Microsoft Band is of band shape, with natural sequence of tiles. Android wear is round and square. Apple watch has a rectangular shape.

    Visual Studio and C# story with Wearables

    With Visual Studio and C# you can develop cross platform wearable apps that run on Android Wear, Apple WatchKit, and we hope to see Band SDK coming out soon. This makes Visual Studio a unique Wearable development platform for all devices. C# is a fantastic language, perfectly suitable for mobile and wearable development. In many ways it is easier to make apps with C# than with the native languages in each platform.

    You can start with these guides:

    Android Wear Developer Preview Now Available

    Introducing the Xamarin WatchKit Preview

    Practical examples of cross-platform apps built with C#

    Here’s a few apps I built with Visual Studio that run on wearables or are capable of interacting with wearable devices.

    Active Fitness

    Active Fitness is a cross-platform (Windows, Android, iOS) fitness, health and sport GPS tracking app and social network of more than a million users. Great for running, walking, cycling, hiking, mountain biking, skiing, snowboarding, urban sports, such as skateboarding, scooter and hundreds of other activities. Active Fitness motivates you by providing ways for sharing your activities with your buddies and friends. Active Fitness has leaderboards for any sports and activities and includes professionally designed training plans. Enjoy and stay fit!

     

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    Winter Sports

    Winter Sports is a cross-platform (Windows, Android, iOS) app, the official app of Professional Ski Instructors of America and American Association of Snowboard Instructors (PSIA-AASI). Beautiful GPS tracking, ski run analytics, snow reports for thousands of resorts, zoomable resort maps, activity tracking, customizable goals, a social network, leaderboards and ski lessons by snow pros. The app includes many innovations, including voice guidance.

     

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