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Wearables and Pervasive Computing: A 2013 Trend to Consider

by Chris Curran on January 23, 2013 [email] [twitter]

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It’s difficult as a CIO to gauge whether or not to add the latest technology to your portfolio. You don’t want to chase a fad without business value or get left behind. Balancing your technology portfolio is a delicate dance that involves making the right investments at the right times for the right reasons.

Today, PwC released its list of 2013 Top 10 Technology Trends for Business. I suspect that many CIOs will see Pervasive Computing as the most risky bet on the list, but I believe Wearables–part of the Pervasive Computing trend–are quickly becoming embedded in our lives. Innovative CIOs are already pondering the vast business possibilities with pilots.

I first heard the idea of small wearable computers back in 1995 when Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the MIT Media Lab, was promoting his book, Being Digital. He predicted cuff links that would talk to other devices and enable users to exchange business card/personal information. Now, nearly two decades later, a wave of wearable computers is flooding the marketplace.

Look closely the next time you go to the gym. You’ll notice runners wearing bracelets that track their workouts and enable them to tweet their scores. Watches are also emerging that sync users with their digital worlds by displaying texts, emails and music playlists. I’m eyeing a pair of ski goggles for my son that projects his speed and location and the course ahead of him.

Dig a little deeper into Wearables and you’ll find another interesting evolution. The smartphone is transformed into the communications “server” for wearable technology. For example, arm bands that track your movements can connect via Bluetooth to your smartphone, which then connects via your app to the armband provider’s servers in the cloud.

Car insurance companies are already using GPS data to determine rates. How long before life insurance companies provide coverage based on a device that monitors your health? What about the devices you place under your pillow to monitor sleep patterns? Mattress companies could produce mattresses that automatically adjust when your discomfort is displayed. What about a bank providing their high-net worth clients with devices that are constantly connected to their personal banker?

Wearables have extended into video and photography as well. Attach a small camera to your shirt pocket and take a picture every 30 seconds or shoot continuous video. I foresee claims investigators using these devices to assess and document damage after a catastrophe (these cameras are already in many cabs and limos).

It’s easy to get inspired when you glimpse a future where Wearables transform our lives. When you do, collaborate with the business and launch a pilot project to explore if a Wearable product or service can give your organization a competitive advantage. Don’t leap in without a business case or drag your feet. Strike the right balance to reap the rewards and mitigate risk.

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