There's no doubt that wearables are creeping into our lives, and changing (yet again) how we operate within the digital landscape. Trend analysts forecast a double digit growth of the phenomenon and eMarketers are predicting the number of wearable technology users will double in the next year. Marketers are scrambling to be the first to market and are focusing their efforts on understanding how this new wave of technology can improve their customers' experience.
Wearable technology seems dominated by the health market, with growing interest in digital payment methods. I'll be exploring why these sectors are leading the way, and what lessons we can learn to further exploit wearable technology.
Why do we need wearables?
The simple answer is, we don't. As with the iPad, wearable technology will make our lives easier and will enable us to interact with the digital universe in an easier way. However, there are some factors, which are catalysts to growing the popularity and use of these devices.
Devices like Fitbit have succeeded and grown in popularity, by capitalising on the competitive nature of some of its features. Linking devices encourages a networked group to do more exercise and become very motivated by their peers.
When people start using contactless devices for payment in particular, it becomes expected that this quick and easy way should become the norm. The expectation that is built on their wristband or watch passes to the phone (which now has services like Apple Pay and thumb print authentication which make it easy). However there's nothing that exists on the desktop that makes it that easy. Mobile web developers need to build these features into their websites and manufacturers need to address the desktop void, which will soon seem convoluted.
Many manufacturers are creating devices specifically for children like Filip, the creator of the child's smart watch. These type of devices will allow parents to track the whereabouts of their children, or alert them if they exceed a set proximity (which is great for holidays and public events). It'll also allow the younger generation to become even more comfortable with wearable tech.
In some cultures and group environments, there can be a perception of exclusivity and the desire to be elite, which can drive some people to seek out devices. Consider on a holiday resort, guests with wrist bands which allow them to pay for services have an air of exclusivity, which other guests will want. This can help build advocacy.
The opportunity to collect data is already huge. Wearable technology allows the collection of a set of data that would otherwise be impossible to gain on a mass scale or not feasible by traditional means.
The work place
With Google now positioning Glass for enterprise, many are looking at how wearable technology can help in the workplace, where the stigma of the form factor and the conflict with social norms is not an issue. Think about surgeons pulling up information as they operate, or engineers with hands-free access to technical plans. Brother have been leading the way on this technology for years with its AiRScouter product.
A couple of things to watch out for (pun intended)
With new technology comes risk...with wearable technology, there are a few barriers to success that need consideration:
With the ability to pay on any device and the 'stealability' of some of these products, security is clearly an issue. If you are creating a wearable solution - how are you going to protect your customer in the case of fraud or theft?
In some cases the actual design and form of these devises prevents users from adopting them. For instance, smartwatches are also competing with traditional watch design and are already behind the curve, even in terms of technology. Watch manufactures have been using solar power, kinetic movement and different screen display technologies to increase battery life -- current smart watches are really just miniature phones on your wrist.
The constant need to recharge is a nuisance and barrier for some people. Even the best devices have 2 days or less battery life. However, all is not lost, there are some emerging technologies like the Zap and Go Graphene charger which can charge in 5 minutes.
Currently, wearable devices are sold in stores in a very traditional way, usually behind glass cabinets or in packages. To be taken up, they need to be experienced, touched, worn and used. Retailers need to create environments that can demonstrate these experience and benefits.
What's next for the wearable space?
Wearables will continue to be a hot topic for 2016, in order for the technology to get over the early adopter hump and into mass market freedom, it needs the innovation from great brands to demonstrate the simplicity benefits.