The concept of wearable technology has been around for a while. Consumers are used to seeing the latest wearable gadgetry in the media and, as such, this level of technological innovation has become the norm. That the idea of wearable is becoming so interwoven in consumers’ everyday life is telling. It is increasingly difficult to draw distinctions between the ‘digital’ and ‘offline’ worlds.
However, this level of technological wizardry will be worth very little if the devices themselves don't deliver a level of enhanced practical and emotional value to people’s lives. In essence, the brave new world of connected devices needs to make everyday simple, and uncomplicated, sense.
This is something that Apple has already factored in to its smartwatch. AppleWatch is being marketed as a desirable fashion item that comes in a number of iterations, at varying price points. By making what is basically a piece of hardware into a fashion-led item, Apple is attempting to make its product attractive to a consumer who may not be particularly tech-savvy.
This bid to make the AppleWatch as desirable as possible isn’t only limited to aesthetics; the watches also have functions that are designed to enrich a consumer’s life – through the integration of functions normally found in other devices. These include standard internet access, activity monitoring, notifications, as well as GPS. But it can do so much more. The brand is already offering streaming services through HBO and apps that can aid you with your air travel or hotel bookings – bringing greater context to existing content.
This demonstrates the huge scope for innovation that remains within the wearable tech market. It has the potential to become an even greater part of everyday life and this has been reflected in recent developments. For instance, Samsung has a Smart Home in development. This is a house that can be controlled through various smart devices. Washing machines could be manipulated through a smart watch while the wearer is at work, for example.
Samsung’s Smart Home concept may be a long way from full fruition but it does highlight that wearable tech has the potential for greater integration into our daily lives. Far from being a flash-in-the-pan gimmick, wearable tech will continue to grow. Analysts have predicted that 50 percent of consumers considering buying a smart device will buy a smart watch. However at the moment, with most functionality attractive to niche markets, the data itself can be the starting point for the development of further services and products.
The biggest win for Apple will not be with the sales of the device itself, but the capture and analysis of data that will bring further rich context to what consumer’s already do. By linking the biometric data capture points to the content that a person is consuming on their phone, a huge number of opportunities arise for new products, advertising and services.
The emphasis now must move beyond the ‘toddler’ stage of cheap devices that can make visible the previously invisible to adding a layer of value to this data. Provide moments of serendipity in an increasingly algorithmically driven world, make things more accurate and personal – just a flavour of the things that brands and tech companies should be looking at.
With half the population in the US using wearables being under 35 and earning more than $100k, the feature-centric approach of today needs to go further and challenge brands to add real value.
Brands should focus on making their products accessible and more ‘lifestyle’ based for people of all ages, rather than concentrating on marketing the innovative technological advancements that only appeal to a niche market.
Tash Whitmey is Group CEO of Havas helia