The first few months of 2014 have been awash with predictions on the rise of ‘wearable tech’. This can be anything from watches to glasses to fitness monitors to auto-video diaries to clothing that monitors health/activity to posture sensors to… I could go on but won’t! Whilst I would not suggest that the majority of people will go the whole hog, like wearable tech’s most connected man who considers wearing seven connected devices as ‘travelling light’, the expectation amongst the mobile and digital industry is that ‘wearables’ will play an important part of a customer’s portfolio of products or tools in the near future.
To put the potential market into context, Deloitte has forecasted figures of c. 10m wearable devices shipped globally this year rising to c. 100m+ units by 2020, with IHS also forecasting that wearable tech will be a c. $30 billion market revenue by 2018.
Wearable tech has developed rapidly over the past couple of years and promises to transform the way we interact with technology. However, wearable devices are still in their infancy. Brands and developers are still toying with function, form and purpose – designing for the wearable form (in whatever form you choose) has a new set of challenges.
The uptake and adoption of services developed for these devices is likely, in the next year or two, to vary dramatically by industry type and sector. For instance, the sports, wellbeing and health sectors are already a step or two ahead of other markets in their development and deployment of such applications.
In the gaming industry, the device-form most likely to take-off is the watch. Its adoption will be, in part, led by the associated functionality on the device appealing to users (e.g. heart and fitness monitors) and, in part, by the appetite for distribution by the manufacturers. If the mobile device manufacturers use companion wearable tech to promote mobile subscriptions (e.g. upgrade to the new Samsung and get a watch free) then the adoption rate of the companion device will be significantly accelerated. The early indicators are that the chosen companion device in this space may well be the watch.
The watch will be suited to functionality that engages the user in a notification message of some form or another, or in a short-life engagement. For instance, watch-tech delivers notifications of calls and voicemail plus text messages and social media messages to the watch-screen. Whilst the user needs to still have his/her phone with them, the convenience of the message/notification arriving to your wrist (rather than on your phone in your pocket or bag) is a significant boon.
Within the gaming space the real-money play options will, at first, focus on slot and game development. The size of available screen and the brief time nature of the experience means that slots are likely to be the easiest of the gaming products sets to transfer to this ‘mini’ view.
Another major and immediate opportunity may be an enhanced and targeted use of App-notifications in driving activity for sportsbook players. Simple, targeted calls-to-action pushing prescriptive bet offers (especially promoting in-play or immediately pre-play betting opportunities) are likely to figure prominently. This could be extended in future to goals alerts with price push for subsequent bet options. The key point in this journey will be the steps relating to login that occur between message receipt and bet placement. There should be a bespoke mini-login option on the watch/wearable device to facilitate this quickly. This could also be used for advance purchase options on certain product types of time-promotion specials.
As will be the case for all sectors, there will, of course, be challenges in the development of watches as wearable tech for gaming applications and functions. The main issue may be that of ‘support’ for the watch or wearable ‘form’ in the current application versions that developers and brands have already in their customers pockets, bags and hands. The immediate point of concern would be the adaptability of current Apps for a significantly reduced screen size. Also, the degree of feature support and fragmentation in devices will cause challenges regarding cross-platform support. Lastly, the nature of information delivered through the phone to the wearable device will need to consume data efficiently both to respect the customer’s data consumption responsibilities and costs, but also to respect the power/processing capacity of the wearable device.
The final push that will impact the adoption of this technology and which formats will prosper may be determined by the manufacturers and brands that ‘lead’ in terms of influence, cachet and style. As an example, in recent months, the form for watches has been developing into a sleeker, slimmer look and feel. It may be that the watch-screen becomes curved around a large portion of the wrist/band and that the app/visual’s curve around the band will enhance take-up because it ‘looks nice’, or because it’s led by Apple or because there is a significant or viral celebrity endorsement.
What we can be sure of is that wearables will provide a new form and a new space in which consumers will interact. Developers, as ever, must be ready for and ahead of the inevitable demands challenges.
Mark Gibson – Business Development Director – Mkodo