Ones to Watch: The Rise of Wearable Technology

Google Glass may not have attracted as many early adopters as forecast, but wearable technology is undeniably on the rise.

Smartwatches, smart jewellery, wearable headsets and even smart clothes all look set to become a part of consumers’ lives. With the global market value expected to increase to $19bn by 2018 according to some predictions, the pressure is now on businesses to harness the potential of the wearable boom. By incorporating wearables into their business structure, organisations will certainly have the power to provide an interactive, integrated and invigorated customer experience – a Smart Service.

Health comes first

Health has perhaps been the industry most revolutionised by the emergence of wearable devices. Fitness gadgets, usually worn on the wrist, can now be used to measure a range of health indicators, such as heart rate, steps taken, calories burned and even blood oxygen levels. Of the UK consumers we surveyed, over 50% would be happy to use a wearable device to keep track of their steps, whilst almost the same number would use one to measure burned calories. But health is by no means the only sector to have witnessed a wearable invasion.

Payments flow

Wearable devices could become a fashionable way to pay for goods in stores. Instead of pulling cash or their card out of their wallets, consumers will now be able to simply touch their wearable against a scanner, much like with contactless payment cards or mobile payment systems such as Apple Pay, although the latter is only available with the Apple Watch. Consumers, particularly younger ones, are interested – almost a quarter of 18-24 year olds, for example, would rather pay with a smartwatch than with a smartphone or more conventional means. Of course security concerns remain an issue, but with modern safety functions like biometrics/touch ID sensors, wearable payment certainly has the capacity to become the default. How easily will consumers be convinced?

Watching the Internet of Things

But although interest in wearable devices is undoubtedly strong, at the moment the number of consumers who actually own an item of wearable technology is low. The problem seems to be functionality. No one smartwatch, for instance, has yet delivered an integrated system that radically simplifies consumer life. For that to happen, an item of wearable tech must connect with other aspects of people’s lives – their finances, their home, their cars etc – as part of the ‘Internet of Things’. This technology needs to be applied to consumer needs, motivations and psychology.The real prohibiting factor is not that wearable devices aren’t sophisticated or functional enough; rather, it is that banks, insurers, housing, utility organisations are yet to provide a service that takes wearable technology fully into account.

Organisations, regardless of their industry, now have a great opportunity to engage with their customers at a more personal and customised level. If they wish to provide a genuinely secure Smart Service, wearable technology must be embraced with open arms.