Wearables

I’ve been using the Apple Watch for the past few weeks. Before that, I hadn’t worn anything on my wrists in over 15 years. Although I don’t quite understand the implications of wearables yet, I know there’s something there. The obvious use case is small, micro-interactions through notifications like a message from my wife saying she’s on her way, and being able to acknowledge that with just one tap. Being able to check my flight status or upcoming meetings is cool and pretty useful too, but I don’t think that’s how wearables are really going to impact our lives. 

Wearables represent the first step of a revolution that gets us closer to being hyper informed, not only on what’s happening in our digital world but more importantly, what’s happening in the physical world. How we interact with both will change thanks to readily available wearables and increasingly connected devices around us. 

As Ben Thompson wrote a few months back:

To fully interact with this sort of software-enabled environment, I will of course need some way to identify myself; for all the benefits of the human body, projecting a unique digital signature is not one of them. The smartphone clearly works, but it’s not perfect: the more you need it for interacting with your environment, the more noticeable is the small annoyance of retrieving it from your pocket or handbag.

 A wearable is different, particularly if it’s on your wrist: simply raising your arm is trivial. This makes it much more likely you will actually interact in a meaningful way with software-enabled objects around you, which makes even having said objects much more likely. To put it another way, I don’t think it’s an accident that the two hot new technologies are wearables and the Internet of Things; they are related such that each is made better by the other.

Being able to pay without pulling out my wallet, or the option to scan my boarding pass with a watch, is only the beginning of the bridge between us and the physical world around us. Many of these things were possible via smartphones but we can now accomplish them without going out of our way. To some extent, we are seeing the first steps of a warable revolution, similar but more impactful than the smartphone one. Using technology to augment oneself with the world won’t be confined to people’s phone. This means that we now have an opportunity to create completely new applications to solve inefficiencies that weren’t possible before. 

In hindsight, Apple and Google have been laying the groundwork over the past few years with technology such as iBeacons (built on top of something as widespread as Bluetooth), indoor mapping, personal identity, Apple Pay and the Internet of Things. When you bring these together, the possibilities for personalized physical interactions on a massive scale are endless. 

Brands should take note. If smartphones are able to alter consumer behavior buried in our pockets, then wearables will accomplish even more. I wrote more on this in the Koombea blog.