In general, South African businesses are known to be conservative in their approach when it comes to new technology. Cloud computing, BYOD, and mobile apps are only starting to build momentum locally when they have already proved very successful in more developed markets. What hope then has the young upstart, wearable technology, to make a dent in the country this year?
At the moment, it is extremely difficult for CIOs to wrap their heads around the business benefits of going the wearable route. A lot of work has been done in the fitness industry but not anything of significance outside it, especially in South Africa. But consider the possibilities when you start pulling all the different components together such as a mobile device and HUD-like glasses wrapped together with a fancy app. This is when the power of wearable starts becoming appealing especially for retailers.
Imagine walking through a retail store with your Google Glass and then walking past a shelf of baked beans. However, the software knows you are allergic to it and overlays a red cross on the tins when you look at them. Another example is that of a picker at a distribution centre. This is a very difficult job with high staff churn. But if the picker is wearing technology that navigates him or her around the isles using a computer-guided system, the company is not only eliminating lists and needless paper work but is also speeding up and adding value to business processes.
Ultimately, wearable technology will allow you to make decisions on the fly.
It is in the security aspect of wearable technology when it comes to your personal information that some are already voicing their concerns. Already we are seeing fitness wristbands monitoring a lot of personal health data but consider the possibilities when it starts sharing that with healthcare providers. Now your medical aid will not only be able to give you discounts based on the physical activity it tracks but it can also potentially penalise you for eating unhealthily.
While people are comfortable in tracking their own information, it is when the device starts sharing it that they become concerned. However, for some the benefits far outweigh any negatives involved.
Banks could also benefit from leveraging wearable technology. Most of them place the customer at the centre of everything they do. Already, they are developing profiles of customers using transactional and social data. Now with sensory data, this takes it to a completely different level. There could be significant financial benefits for an individual with this more tailored approach that will be completely unique per customer with very little effort.
This year, we will start seeing smart watches becoming more integrated with tablets. As with many other technologies, once it reaches saturation it will start creeping into the corporate market in much the same way as tablets did not too long ago.
Wearable technology plays very well in the physical world when it is combined into an augmented space. The digital world already knows so much about us as individuals that we just need to take that next step and realise the benefits of extending it into the real world.