The advent of “wearables” has brought the discussion of “The Merge” to the forefront again for techies, consumers, and now for business. Wearables are the category of portable computers ranging from activity bands, (think: Fitbit, Pebble) to the computer watches such as the newly debuted, iWatch. Wearables offer the promise that they can not only keep us in touch with our offices through email, apps, and business documents but can also help us lose weight, eat better, and make us more healthy. In short, they are an almost hands-free way to keep us connected 24-7. “The Merge” is a predicted time in the future when all of the devices we use to connect, phones, PC’s and tablets will be integrated into our bodies and clothing.
Wearables are the next step in the miniaturization and facilitation of communication and commerce activities which we first did using our PC’s then later our tablets and now our mobile phones; including mobile wallets, online purchasing, gaming, and eventually video calling.
(In reality, cell phones should actually be called mobile computers as the phone is just a small part of the technology embedded in the overall device.)
Lately, American business has begun to take notice of the wearable trend. In a March 2015 study by Salesforce.com, 8 in 10 enterprise wearable adopters agreed that wearables would reshape their companies’ future success. In addition, 75 percent of the same respondents said that they had already seen an improvement in their business performance due to wearables
The promise of wearables for business is two-fold; productivity among staff and data collection from customers.
The productivity gains come from such things as the ability to present hands-free instruction guides for field service, coaching using live chat with a trainer, training instructions to a geographically diversified staff, augmented reality to improve workers efficiency GPS location (…where is Waldo and is he still on his coffee break?), as well as clinical trial monitoring.
On the big data side, wearables present an indescribable treasure trove for marketers, including real time bio-metrics on customers, as well as transactional behavior such as shopping co-located in time with GPS data. It is not too much of a stretch to take the current technology of geo located coupons on your phone to now appearing on your wrist, aided by a slight vibration. Macy’s sees you are shopping for dress shirts and knows you have a purchase history. Bam! Here’s an on the spot reward delivered to your wrist.
The upside in this area is huge. As Salesforce noted that while one-quarter of companies were intending to use wearable gathered big data, only 8 percent of adopters were ready to act on data gathered. In other words, two-thirds of those who get data now are not even intending to use it.
Finally, there is a “creep” factor for the consumers. Wearable data is not as widely protected yet as other forms of consumer information, (i.e. web browsing, on-line shopping) and a recent TRUSTe poll (www.truste.com) in December 2014 confirmed that 87 percent of US internet users were worried about smart devices and the information they are collecting.
Associations need to ask themselves the same questions. What productivity can be gained with wearables in our environment? Could chambers utilize the augmented reality features to better sell a prospect on re-location and or convince tourists to book? How could wearables be leveraged in a chamber mixer environment? Or at an association annual meeting?
All in all, it is yet another step toward “The Merge” – that magical point in time in which all of our devices are self-contained in our glasses, ear buds, and contact lenses and their energy comes not from a wall socket but form the clothes we wear. Already companies are experimenting with nano tubes – embedded in synthetic fibers – which generate kinetic energy through your normal daily movements. Not next year, but experts predict it will happen by 2030. What challenges will that future present for today’s association executives?
Authors note: the first Wearable Computer was actually introduced by HP in 1977. Nicknamed “Cricket,” the HP-01 wrist instrument was actually an ingenious mechanical device with 24 keys operated by a stylus. It performed as a calculator, calendar, and watch. It was highly unsuccessful. So much so that existing copies are rare and can sell for as much as $1500.