Wearable technologies are in the gold rush phase of their evolution. All of the leading technology developers have (or are actively developing) watches and other wearable devices that extend and expand the capabilities of the smartphone and tablet.
Google Glass was first to ignite this new category of technology, but all eyes have been on Apple and how they view wearable devices. Following the unveiling of the Apple Watch in September, small business owners gained a somewhat clearer view of this sector. The question facing small business owners now is how they can leverage these platforms to support their enterprise's products and services.
Adam Spearing, VP Platform EMEA, salesforce.com, says: "We've always believed that small businesses are in the best position to adopt new technologies and ways of working, especially compared to larger rivals – and this remains true in the case of wearable technology. The wearable revolution gives small businesses the opportunity to differentiate themselves against their competitors through tremendous innovation and high quality of service."
For businesses wearable technology could have a profound impact. The use of hands-free, heads-up displays is a powerful paradigm that every business could potentially exploit. Like the smartphone and tablet that have delivered new channels for all businesses to leverage, wearables offer a level of personal connectivity that has not existed before.
And when this technology is coupled with the Internet of Things (IoT), the possibilities become endless. In addition, there is a clear financial driver here with Gartner predicting the global market for wearables will reach $5 billion (around £3.2 billion, AU$5.9 billion) by 2016 – and IHS has predicted that by 2018, there will be 180 million wearable devices sold. This is a massive market your small business can support today.
"One of the interesting things that came from this research – perhaps that we weren't expecting – is that chatter about wearable tech is no longer confined to the water cooler in the engineering department," said Natalie Meehan, Marketing Insights Analyst, Brandwatch.
"Discussion about wearables has become far more commonplace in mainstream society, and we're seeing more types of people talking about it, and in more kinds of places. Just like with smartphones or tablets almost a decade ago, we're on the cusp of a cultural shift that reflects our changing attitudes towards how we live with technology."
Research carried out by Brandwatch and Brilliant Noise concluded:
- Year-on-year the conversation around wearables has exploded – increasing a staggering 190% when you compare the first quarter of last year (973,300 mentions) to that of this year (2,816,814 mentions).
- Interestingly, the most negativity came not from those who were sceptical about the technology, but from those who actually owned it (51% of negative chat was from owners) – hinting that the reality might not be living up to the hype.
- Wearables still seem to be struggling to find real purchase outside of the US – the US market accounts for well over half (70%) of the conversation about the technology, followed by the UK (7%), Canada (3%), Australia (2%) and India (2%).
- A new brand battleground: Google Glass, Fitbit and Pebble emerged as the top three products mentioned by volume in the US, while in the UK the rankings saw Fitbit at the top, followed by Nike Fuelband and Google Glass.
- Perhaps unsurprisingly given the technology's association with sports and technology, male authors led the conversation (65% versus 35%) – however female authors are 42% more positive than men when discussing ownership of wearables.