It can be hard to find new ways to differentiate your wearable technology, especially in established markets. Making a product smart by connecting to the Internet of Things can unlock a world of possibilities for both users and creators and for once, the benefits don’t end once the product leaves the factory.
Standalone wearable technology
Think about a simple GPS watch, which many people buy to track their training. They can instantly see how far they’ve travelled and how quickly. They can compare times with previous runs and know if their training is improving. These devices add genuine value to their users’ lives.
If a problem comes to light six months down the line however, say there’s a small problem with the way distances are calculated, then there’s often nothing that can be done to correct it. Some users will connect their smart wear to a computer to update the software, but mostly these devices stay exactly as they are throughout their lifetime.
Connect the wearable and things get interesting. We open up a two-way relationship with the user that continues throughout the life of the product.
An immediate benefit for users
Straight away we have the ability to update the device. We can correct any bugs in the software so that it is always accurate. Users know that any problems that arise will be fixed instantly. This gives them peace of mind to spend money knowing it won’t be wasted.
We can also control the functionality of the product. Users could receive new training modes as they’re developed. We could also offer paid upgrades, within the same products, for users who want to buy first and see how much they use it before they commit to spending more.
Another great benefit is being able to update the design of the software to keep it looking fresh, if appropriate. Design trends change over time but if we can keep our design updated – with new watch faces and menu designs – we can keep the product looking good. We can even jump on new trends, offering free or paid watch faces for the latest movies, games and music.
Finally, we can make the product social. It can automatically post ‘I just ran 5 miles through Central Park’ allowing friends to see their progress. It may also prompt their friends to think ‘Hey, I need a watch that does this too’!
Other products can benefit too. Products that don’t have a screen can now tell us things about battery life or consumable levels without resorting to a complex system of flashing lights or annoying beeps. With a little thought, the possibilities are endless.
Creators benefit too
All of this is a two-way relationship. As customers enjoy new, safe, great-looking software, so the company can benefit too. We can see how users actually use the product. This allows us to tailor the software so if we know there are 10 functions and three are never used we can either get rid of them, or try to find out why. We can also redesign menus so that the functions people use are the ones that are easiest to access. By analyzing battery usage, we can see if any functions are using too much and try to recode them.
This can also help in marketing the product. Instead of trying to market 10 great functions we can focus on the ones that users really use, simplifying the message and making it more effective. It also gives us another product benefit to base marketing on – ‘This product will never be out of date’.
We can also simplify our development cycle. By being able to use a single piece of software across a product range, and unlock different functionality on the fly, we can save development time and streamline the development process. Products can be brought to market quicker, knowing that we can update software to add other functions later.
Finally, we can protect customers if any major problems occur. If there’s a problem with batteries overheating and becoming dangerous, for example, we can instantly disable the product to protect the customer while we fix it – either through better software or a replacement battery.
Things to avoid
One of the main issues is that connecting products affects battery life. Smart design of software, and using the connection only when it’s truly needed, can minimize this but there will always be an effect when moving from a non-connected to a connected product. The battery life of the product needs to match the customer’s expectations or they will quickly stop using it.
Another pitfall to avoid is adding in functionality ‘because you can’. Gimmicks can be tempting to try to justify connecting a product but customers will soon see through them. All functionality should add value to a user, otherwise it’s simply a solution looking for a problem.
The benefits of connecting a product are huge for both the creator and the user. More products, and product categories, are being connected each day and this is a trend that is set to continue. As long as products are designed to enhance users’ lives, or solve problems real users have, then connecting products will always bring about increased sales.