In the near future, tech will be wearable and marketable. Indeed, the most forward-thinking brands already see opportunities to integrate with the new mobile computing chips in glasses, watches and clothes.
Such smart gear is creating a world in which our computing melds with the real world, and in between, there is ample opportunity for brands to deliver messages in new ways.
“Visual wear provides an artificial layer of data while perceiving the real world around you,” says Robert Peck, a SunTrust analyst. While walking down the street, wearable gadgets provide an augmented reality experience, one with data at the ready about landmarks and the surroundings. Surely, there will be openings for brands and small businesses to superimpose themselves into that space, delivering marketing messages on the go. The whole world can become an infinite billboard space, tailored to everyone’s immediate needs.
And we are only at the start of where this technology can go. Clunky computer glasses and smartwatches are akin to early brick-size cellphones. The more they evolve the smaller they will get and the more the technology will disappear into the background. Soon instead of having to look down at a smartphone, computer glasses and other mobile computing will just deliver information you need. “It will become second nature,” Peck said.
Brands are likely to approach the new platforms in many other ways besides straight-up advertising. “Brands need to enable wearable devices to integrate with their capabilities,” says Michael Becker, a mobile marketing expert.
Companies are already developing for the new paradigm—Walgreens printing mobile photos, Kraft reaching shoppers while in grocery stores, Nissan providing a person’s car data to smartwatches.
The key for brands is to think like platforms, Becker adds, and open their specialized data to developers who can build for the increasingly mobile and hands-free world.
“Wearable tech is not a niche play; it’s a broad industrywide phenomenon impacting everything,” Becker says. “It’s critical marketers and brands realize that we’re at the first embryonic stage.”
Google Glass is the best known, but not the only smart eyewear developer. Big rivals like Samsung and startups like Epiphany Eyewear are entering the space. Smart glasses—still in their infancy—need to meet fashion if they want to appeal to more than nerdy early adopters, and eyewear brands like Warby Parker are potential partners to design hipper frames.
This year a company called Smarty Ring says it will deliver on its crowdfunded project. The Smarty Ring promises to control your phone from your finger. It’s not the only company interested in ring-based computing—there have been rumors that even Apple could develop an iRing.
Smartwatches took their first steps last year, and the technology will have more players this year. Samsung, Qualcomm, Sony, Pebble and others are early entrants, but Apple and Google are interested. The smartwatch will be even more accessible with lower-end brands like Archos releasing wearable gadgets that are set to cost less than $100.
Will your cross-trainers start motivating you while at the gym with words of encouragement? Google and Adidas developed a concept shoe that praises your jump shot, and companies like Reebok are at the forefront of wearable tech. Pretty soon your shoes will know where you’re going better than you do.