Are Smart pens the future of note taking?

Are Smart pens the future of note taking?

Smart pens today are a niche product that promise a lot but haven’t yet found a foot hold. I believe that this is mostly due to the pricing (the best are over £100) and either require special paper or a receiver. Over the next few years I’m expecting that the price will drop and that some of the complications will diminish – at which point I’m expecting they will explode in the way the Smartphones did once Apple sorted out the usability issues. It has become apparent that you don’t need a massive screen to get things done and that you can have all the computing power you need in your pocket housed within your Smartphone. But use these phones with a stylus and it becomes clear how the small screens aren’t best suited for writing on. Samsung have attempted to tackle this issue by including their S-Pen stylus only with larger screen Smartphones and tablets.

You see, when you want to make a mark you find that size does matter. The end of you stylus needs to be small (so it feels like a pen) and then screen needs to be large (so it at least feels like A4 paper). Then you notice that things don’t feel like pen and paper. Without a proper tactile response writing on a smooth screen feels a little artificial. That said, if you are prepared to put in the effort then you can expect reasonable note taking on a tablet. But don’t expect miracles on a phone sized screen…

Here come the Smart pens

This is where the Smart pen can swoop in and making a difference. Rather than need a big screen you should be able to work on regular sized paper. And work with ink which is being captured and automatically transferred to your smaller screened device. Notes and drawings should be automatically captured by a note taking app, converted into digital text (where appropriate) and contextualised so that notes that are similar rise to the top and help to show you possible links that may not have otherwise been possible.

Adapt technology and not how we work

For decades we have needed to adapt the way we work to get the most out of technology. Whether this is learning to use a keyboard and mouse – or more
recently touchscreen there has been a need to learn new skills to make the most out of it. Pen and paper is introduced at such a young age that drawing and later on writing become a key way in which we communicate our thoughts and ideas. Things are getting easier, but nothing matches up to the simplicity and immediacy of using a pen with some paper.

The benefits to such an accessible way of collating ones thoughts will not only aid information workers and digital artists, it has the potential to benefit everyone by making sense of the notes we make and keep. Shopping lists will become aware of other shopping lists and present a history of what you have recently gone out to buy. Anyone who can write will not only have access to everything they’ve written with a Smart pen but their device will be able to make sense of it and make life just that little bit easier.

Smart watch Integration

I’m looking forward to seeing how the Smart watch thing plays out. At the moment they are mostly extensions of the Smart phone – reliant for connectivity but providing another means to access and interact with data. But, it is conceivable that with a few generations of developments that Smart watches could take the place of your phone one they can work alone. It’s at this point Smart pens (along with voice commands) could become more important input mechanisms. When you no longer need to press the screen for input, it leaves space for more natural ways of feeding the machine.

Battery life

Smart pens do not have a great deal of space for large batteries and topping up every few hours is not going to cut it. Batteries need to last at least as long as your phone charge so you can get into the habit of charging the two at the same time.

How long?

It’s a bit hard to say when this is likely to happen. Most of the component parts exist today either as niche products or services. The Smartphone can communicate with Smart pens today and that data can go into Evernote or OneNote. So, really all that is needed is for prices to drop and the Smart pen technology to improve. I’d suggest that two years from now we will start to see affordable (sub £50) Smart pens which work in a contextually aware manner. And within five years these could become mainstream input tools in the way that the Smartphone is today.

Yes, I think Smart pens will be the future of note taking

I do believe that Smart pens are the future of note taking as they take something very natural to many people and make it better. Battery life needs to be excellent and the device intuitive but I expect that within a few years these issues will be resolved and may start replacing the humble pen in many peoples pockets.

Any further thoughts?

What do you think about this article? Do you have anything to add or, do you disagree with my predication? Either way I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.