Wearable Tech: Why it will be as important as mobile.

SNL Google Glass Skit
It wasn’t that long ago that the arrival of the personal computer changed just about every aspect of our personal and business lives. The Internet did the same thing not much later, on a bigger scale. Now we’re told that we’re in the Post-PC era, with our smart phones and tablets keeping us constantly connected.

What’s next? According to many sources, we’re about to enter a new era where our mobile devices will become smaller, smarter, and hyper-aware. It’s being called the Wearable Era.

For now, it’s still considered good sport to poke fun at the guy walking around wearing his new Google Glass. For many of us, it’s still hard to imagine wanting to be geeky enough to actually WEAR our technology. Remember the short rise and fall of all those Bluetooth headsets? But a lot of data points to the fact that wearable technology is coming fast. And will quite possibly change everything. Again.

Former WIRED Editor Chris Anderson has called it the “peace dividend of the smartphone wars.” It’s the hard work put in by all those smartphone manufacturers over the last several years. They solved many of the big hurdles to getting dependable mobile Internet service across wide areas. On top of that, specialized sensors and chip sets are now less expensive than ever. Which means wearable tech manufacturers can take easy advantage of all that hard work and infrastructure to build imaginative new products.

By all accounts, wearable tech will create a very large market. Since 2009, venture capitalists have poured more then half a billion dollars into wearable tech startups. And some estimate that we could see 100 million wearable tech devices shipped by the end of 2016 (ten times the estimated amount for 2014).

So what makes a device wearable tech? It typically includes smaller, unobtrusive, hands-free devices that are always on, and always connected to the network. Specialized sensors in these devices mean they can be aware of their location, environment, context, and even the health or emotion of the wearer. Categories (so far) include glasses, fitness bands, watches and jewelry.

What are the implications? Most likely widespread. Expect to see wearable tech devices incorporated first into customer service functions, specialized industrial and medical uses. But it won’t be long before they’re being used for sales, education, entertainment and learning. Workplaces will need to create policies for employees who expect to BYOW – Bring Your Own Wearables – into the office IT environment.

But what about advertising and marketing? Expect plenty of impacts here as well. SEO and SEM practices will both need to evolve to incorporate new types of online searches. Instead of typing search phrases into their smartphones, users will be speaking to their devices, or expecting their device to anticipate search terms based on their current environments. Google has reportedly already trademarked the phrase “Pay Per Gaze”.

Mobile marketing tactics may need to get even more localized. Since wearable devices will be aware of their location and context, marketers will need to find ways to become even more relevant in terms of reaching consumers with the right message at the right time and place.

Consumers will be able to leverage wearable tech to become even smarter and more empowered than ever. Miniaturized devices like blood oxygen sensors or even spectrometers may enable consumers to literally look inside a product before they buy it, or to determine whether manufacturer packaging claims are actually true.

Live streaming capabilities built into wearable devices could take consumer reviews to a whole new level. Imagine your customer streaming a live walk-through of your hotel or destination to their friends and social media followers. Or being able to conduct training or tech support calls while seeing what your customer is seeing.

When it comes to wearable tach, the hype is massive. And the realities of it are still difficult to pin down. But if the trend even comes close to living up to its possibilities, it will be massive for marketers (and everyone else). It’s probably not a question of if it’s coming, but when.

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