Wearable-Technology1I have friends who work in IT that swear the next big thing is wearable technology, and the statistics seem to bear that out – the market is supposed to be anywhere from $5.8 billion to as much as $12 billion by 2018.

Of course, we’ve seen Google Glass for a couple of years now, and Apple just announced its new Apple Watch that’s coming in 2015, both to plenty of fanfare.

But after that, what’s considered wearable technology? And what are the key issues that will help or hinder widespread adoption, particularly within the focus of this blog, the B2B marketplace?

Some of those questions were answered this week at a special event I attended in downtown Chicago, hosted by my friend and work colleague Mike Carrozzo from Fuse Communications. It was a casual, happy hour-esque gathering of nine of us from various walks of life that kicked around the wearable question – what it is, what it means and what it could become.

The ultimate intention is to help develop a monthly event that will bring the very best in technology providers and thought leaders to present and meet on the wearable topic. So I felt I was getting in on the ground floor of something big – because I think it could be for the enterprise crowd.

I mean, think about it. If we loosely define wearable technology as that which is worn or affixed to an actual person, the possibilities for increased efficiencies and reduced costs are inherent. Think about a an electronic or RFID-based watch band that a fleet truck driver swipes when refueling that captures gallons pumped, cost, etc. That’s a lot easier than writing it down. Or consider a wearable device that calculates how long a factory worker stands and sits during the course of the day, solving an ergonomic problem and helping reduce healthcare costs.

Sure, some of this is already in use; think Fitbit, for example. But one of the biggest things we talked about Wednesday night was the issue of data and how it should be used. Remember, many of these devices are generating data about an employee and how he/she is conducting his work. What if you’re a salesperson and you’re mandated to visit x-number of clients in a day, week or month, and your wearable technology can prove you did (or did not) follow through? Sure, if you’re an honest employee, you have nothing to worry about, but would you join a company that was literally monitoring your every move? I bet you’d think twice, and that becomes an HR talent acquisition issue.

And that’s just the start. I read in the Wall Street Journal this week that globally we generate 2.5 quintillion bytes of data DAILY. Presumably, an explosion of wearable technology particularly in the enterprise will add to that substantially. We’re already swimming in data; who’s going to manage it all? That’s an IT issue.

Then, of course, there’s privacy. Glass-like technology that can shoot video may be a cool thing for companies to use in a variety of ways, but where does consent come in if you’re shooting video, in house or remotely? Hypothetically, you could shoot video at any time and those being recorded may or may not know it. Is the consent implied if you’re an employee? Someone equated this issue to that of Porgressive’s Snapshot technology, which monitors your driving habits. According to one of Wednesday’s participants, the data can be used to lower one’s premium, not raise it. But how do you know that for sure?

I think Brian Werter, research assistant with NORC at the University of Chicago said it best: There has to be a business case for application of wearable technology, and that starts with the intention to solve a problem. But all those issues that were mentioned have to be managed, especially by corporate communications, in order to achieve that business case and the ultimate benefit the technology provides.

Image credit to Business2Community.com

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UnknownJacobs & Clevenger here in Chicago had a blog post recently that posed a surprising question: Have all communications channels stopped working? In it, Ron Jacobs muses about whether marketers should stop investing in websites, if SEM and SEO are still effective, and the virtues of direct mail.

It was a perfect segue for today’s post, because it’s an anniversary of sorts – four years ago this month, I started blogging with Brand Empire, which transitioned after a couple of years to what you see now. Over that time, I’ve got 200+ posts under my belt and I’ve learned a lot by basing my posts on Marty Neumeier‘s simple premise that a brand isn’t what you say it is, it’s what they say it is – they being customers, supporters, prospects and the like.

So I put today’s post into the lens of what Ron wrote, and I came to a couple of conclusions:
1. A communications channel is most effective if your target audience resides on the receiving end. For example, it makes zero sense to recommend launching a Facebook profile if your audience doesn’t congregate there. Radian6 and other social media monitoring platforms have ways for you to find that out. To Ron’s point, what’s the evidence that your target audience is going to be on the other end of a direct mail piece?
2. Simplicity is absolutely, undeniably, rock-solid crucial when it comes to the communication you’re going to deliver through a selected channel.

Regarding No. 2, I’m not only talking about the words and images you choose to use; I’m talking about the messages you deliver and the concept you’re trying to convey. Take a look at Einstein’s quote above, and let it sink in.

See, it doesn’t matter if you’re in the B2B or B2C worlds – target audiences are too damn busy to spend a lot of time thinking through things. That’s to say as marketers we sometimes think that the more elaborate, the better … the more key messages, the more robust a messaging platform seems. And that’s a good thing – right?

Probably not. If your target audience is receiving a message from you that’s hard to understand, they’re simply going to ignore it and move onto something that’s easier to “get,” maybe from a competitor. Through that lens, then, the communication channel – advertising, PR, social media, direct mail, what have you – is secondary to the ease of understanding of what you are trying to get across.

When I was a cub reporter at the Lake Country Reporter newspaper in Hartland, Wis., in the mid-1990s, my editor once told me not to use 10 words to say what you can in five. The same thing applies here. Why try to deliver five key messages when you can convey everything you want to say in three?

If you think about it, it’s easier for the deliverer of the message to do his/her job, and at the same time it’s easier for the receiver to understand.

I’m not talking about dumbing down communications; I’m merely saying that thinking through what you want to convey is just as important as the channel you select. And to dovetail on Ron’s point, that will likely make a channel that much more effective, which metrics will bear out over time.

What do you think? How can you make your communications more simple and easier to understand? Let’s talk about it below.

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