Alum, Fans Knock Pebble Out of the Park

You’ve heard of smartphones and Smart Houses—it was only a matter of time before some outfit invented a smart watch.

The Pebble E-paper Watch

Pebble Technology is the company, and its lead engineer is 2009 Case Western Reserve computer science graduate Andrew Witte. The official name is the Pebble E-Paper Watch, and the device interfaces with both the iPhone and Android operating systems. That means it plays music, alerts you to incoming calls and emails and much more.

The concept enjoyed a promising start with Y Combinator, the Silicon Valley company that invests and incubates digital start-ups. Among the company’s investors is Case Western Reserve 1998 alumnus and Gmail creator Paul Buchheit.

After failing to attract a critical mass of funding, though, Pebble turned to Kickstarter, an online platform where individuals can post ideas and solicit support. They hoped to raise $100,000; they ended up with more than $10 million.

“We’re still trying to learn exactly what made it so popular,” Witte laughs. “In all seriousness, though, we are the first smart watch that works with the iPhone out of the box.”

Cyclists can access the GPS to display distance and speed; runners can use the music app to play, pause or skip songs from their phone, all through their wristwatch. In addition, third-party software developers can write apps that run on Pebble—making potential functionalities limitless.

The team expects to ship its 85,000 pre-ordered Pebbles by this fall.