Wearable technology is becoming very popular with consumers, and is now built and endorsed by major consumer electronics firms like Google, Apple, and Samsung. Each of these firms currently builds its own smartwatch, a digital watch powered by the same hardware inside smartphones that’s designed to complement and support its wearer’s smartphone experience. The term ‘wearables’ refers to any device or piece of technology that is adapted to be worn rather than held. We’ve identified four business sectors that will, in the coming months, evolve significantly due to the impact of these types of devices.
Smartwatches and other wearables are at the front lines of the ongoing revolution in payment collection. Since the credit card was first promoted by firms like American Express and Bank of America 60 years ago, the way we’ve spent money has remained relatively unchanged. Now, devices like the Apple Watch (combined with company’s new Apple Pay software) are hoping to encourage payments via the device itself rather than with a smartphone or credit card. The idea is to maximize convenience and security, as a smartwatch can carry encrypted credit card information, and doesn’t require searching through a wallet or pulling out a device while in line.
Smartwatches could also improve the retail space through their ability to augment a customer’s shopping experience. The easy access of the screen on a smartwatch, coupled with location-based notifications, would allow retailers to enhance a customer’s experience by displaying coupons, suggested purchases based on the interests outline on their social media profiles, and other vital analytics. The shopping experience will soon be centered around the gadgets a customer uses.
It’s become evident that technology companies are just as interested in advertising their wearable devices as appealing accessories as they are in promoting their advanced technology. For example, Apple’s most recent smartwatch advertisement was not in technology magazines, but in Vogue, one of the largest worldwide fashion magazines. The firm purchased a twelve-page spread that focused not just on the functionality of the technology, but also its aesthetics.
For wearables to fulfill their potential in the marketplace, they need to look attractive. More than any other type of electronic, it could be considered a personal statement of style and taste. It’s inevitable that wearables forge partnerships with the high-end fashion brands that produce accessories, from watches to glasses, or other items.
The efficiency allowed for by having an always-on, always-connected device on your body is already a powerful selling-point for wearable technology. The vast majority of smartwatches on the market advertise their ability to monitor a user’s heart rate, track their calorie consumption, improve their sleeping habits, and improve its user’s general health.
So far, these benefits have been mostly limited to the applications offered by the major technology companies. However, as healthcare companies continue to express interest in the ability for smartwatches to monitor basic vitals, that could easily change soon. As more functionality is added to the technology, including more accurate vital measurement, wearables may soon offer a first line of defense in detecting potential ailments, and they may encourage users to improve their health, which could lower their healthcare premiums. This will be powered, of course, by partnerships between major tech and healthcare companies.
Wearable devices offer conveniences that some automobile manufacturers have started to incorporate into their cars. Smartphones have not always had a positive relationship in the automotive industry, as handheld devices are seen as distractions that encourage unsafe driving. However, since wearables like smartwatches and smartglasses can be used without being held, they offer an effective way to enhance a driving experience without custom OEM installations and without dangerous distractions. Products like Google Glass allow for hands-free navigation without ever losing sight of the road, encouraging drivers to be more aware as they drive.
Automotive manufacturers like Audi are also interested in using wearables to verify and identify drivers. The company is already testing watch applications that allow drivers to unlock and start their vehicle with their smartwatch instead of a wireless key. As the computers in cars get smarter, there’s also the potential for creating smartwear that transmits reports on the vehicle’s health.
As wearables continue to take many shapes and sizes, they will soon have an impact on every business sector, just as smartphones and other consumer electronics have paved new paths for business.