The smart watch category is about to explode. Companies like Pebble, Sony, Samsung, and Qualcomm have already released their versions, and we’re expecting more in 2014 including one from Apple. So far, the early versions are a bit clunky, but expect them to evolve rapidly with bendable HD displays, instant style changes, and much more.

In its simplest definition, a smart watch is a computerized wristwatch with functionality that goes far beyond timekeeping. Most will rely on a wireless Bluetooth connection to your smart phone so that they can tap into the processing power, storage, bandwidth, GPS, and sensors of your phone, not to mention your email, text messages, and a lot more, And, as you upgrade to a smarter smart phone, your smart watch will instantly benefit from the new capabilities.

Why would you want a smart watch when you already have a smart phone? One of the biggest early benefits is that it gives you essential information, including personalized alerts and important text and email messages, without having to pull out your phone. You can respond to text, social media, and emails with your voice and have apps launch directly from your watch. You can also set reminders that go off less obtrusively—that only you can “feel.” And because it has voice recognition, directions or searches for information are fast and easy. Basically it allows you to access the power of your phone all while keeping the phone in your pocket.

Some smart watches have sensors built in that help with physical fitness. It can tracks how many steps you’ve taken, how many miles you’ve walked, how many calories you’ve burned, etc. In the near future, we’ll likely see medical uses for the smart watch. For example, with a little sensor in the watch, a diabetic could track blood sugar levels or even physical exertion versus insulin levels. Likewise, heart patients could monitor their heart rate.

Even more interesting, the car manufacturer Nissan recently released a smart watch. Why? They want to be able to let their drivers track vehicle performance, guide them through warnings, let them know when they’re speeding, track their fuel use, etc. I doubt many auto companies will follow suit, unless they want to do it for branding purposes. It would be far wiser for auto manufacturers to develop a good mobile app that their car owners could use on any smart watch of their choice. All the functions the Nissan watch tracks could easily be integrated into a more fully-functional smart watch that companies like Google, Samsung, or Apple produce. Expect to see a long list of apps you can download to your smart watch that will let you either control or monitor your soon-to-be smart products.

As smart watches become more popular, we’ll see many advances in them over the next few years, including thinner, smaller, and higher design elements. A smart watch is definitely one wearable technology to watch closely.

What feature would make you want to wear a smart watch?