Google-Glass-Explorer-EditionIn 2007, Apple released the original iPhone, a move that radically altered our relationship with computing technology and the internet. Since then we’ve adjusted to the role of the smartphone – the feeling of always being connected and having a constant feed of information – to the extent that we feel lost when out of range or away from a decent Wi-Fi connection.

However, things are set to change again. It’s widely predicted that 2014 will be the beginning of the age of wearable technology, something that will completely re-programme our relationship with information and technology.

Experts believe up to 10 million devices will be sold during 2014, rising to 100 million by the end of 2016. By the end of the decade, this has the potential to be a $19 billion industry.

There’s a huge buzz and curiosity surrounding wearable devices and their rapid progress raises many questions. It’s a fascinating time for technology lovers, but a critical time for video creators, brands and businesses as they work out what this will mean for digital marketing, and how they can capitalise on this new brave new world.

What is Wearable Technology?

Wearable computing devices are basically mini computers that are strapped to your face or wrist, with the potential to be worn in other places as new technology is developed. They often operate in partnership with a smartphone which acts as an internet hub, though this is likely to change as more sophisticated devices are invented.

Wearable technology is very much in its infancy, but as prices come down, expect sales and market share to rise dramatically.

Smartwatches, such as the Samsung Galaxy Gear, have gone on the market in recent weeks, and the following video gives you a little taste of their capabilities.

Connecting remotely with your phone, you can be notified of any calls or messages, make hands-free calls with your phone in your pocket, and take photos or short video clips. And as rumours circulate regarding Apple developing a curved glass smartwatch, the possibilities for these devices are mindboggling.

Google Glass is about as fancy as technology gets right now. Launched last year to a select few lucky ‘Explorers,’ it’s one of the most controversial pieces of technology to be released in years, and a constant talking point in legal circles.

Due to go on general release at some point in 2014, these robotic looking glasses are pure science fiction, but as technology develops the electronics will become much less obvious, until one day you won’t be able to tell whether your loved one is staring devotedly into your eyes or catching up on Doctor Who.

The Potential Impact on Video Marketing

Generation Y, a.k.a. The Millennials, have embraced mobile technology, especially smartphones and tablets, but if wearable devices take off as predicted, consumers would be constantly connected and able to stream, meaning that video viewing would increase dramatically.

Smartphones and tablets have been instrumental in moving our computers from our offices and homes to our bags and pockets. Just imagine the impact of attaching them to our bodies. They’re much more subtle than staring at a phone or tablet, and therefore increase the ease with which we can hunt down any information we need or seek out entertainment to keep us amused.

Consumers out shopping may be found watching product demonstration videos on their wrist before splashing out on a new purchase, or watching corporate videos to get a feel for a brand’s personality before deciding to buy in. Being stuck with Mr Dull on a long train journey will take on a completely new perspective if you’re actually watching entertainment videos out of the corner of your eye.

This means a huge increase in the amount of video people will be watching for a variety of reasons, including entertainment, product demonstrations, corporate videos, education, information, advertising and marketing. And an increase in the amount of time consumers spend connected and streaming video.

There are privacy concerns as imagine a scenario where you are looking at t-shirts in a shop and then have a constant sream of ads running down Google Glass trying to sell you other t-shirts; is this helpful or an invasion of your privacy?

The moral of the story? Make online video a priority in your marketing planning for the forthcoming years, and whatever you do, ensure any video you create is compatible for viewing on a variety of mobile platforms.

A Question of Data

However, the introduction of wearable devices will have a much greater impact for brands, businesses and digital marketers than an increase in video consumption and need to embrace different viewing platforms. The potential lies in the amount of personal data they’ll be able to gather.

At the moment, a smartphone or tablet can tell what you are doing and where you are. But wearable technology has the potential for two-way streaming, which could tell how you’re feeling, how healthy you are, and how hard you’re working, therefore gathering much more personal information about you, which can be translated to more targeted marketing. At the moment, we have a pretty good idea of the value of a click, or a social action such as a like or share. Just imagine what you could achieve if you could measure a consumer’s level of fitness, how much exercise they take or their sleep habits.

And that’s not all. Imagine a shopper is browsing clothes stores, or comparing cameras in a shop. If they’re wearing Google Glass, they’ll be providing valuable information about their consumer habits which will transform the way that marketers reach out and engage with them, and will really help niche down sponsored ads so you can help them to find exactly what they’re looking for. Marketing will develop the power to weave seamlessly into individuals’ lives, giving them relevant messages at the right time, right place. Clever, and slightly scary, stuff.

Privacy Concerns

However, this new technology is not without concern, and there’s no guarantee that consumers will dive right in and embrace it from the outset. One of the main issues concerning people is that of privacy. It already feels as though Big Brother is watching us. Now consumers – and lawyers – are concerned at the idea of 24/7 video recording, an increase in personal data collection, and highly targeted ads.

Google Glass has already been banned in a number of public places, before it’s even been officially released, due to concerns over privacy and the potential for inappropriate filming. So although wearable technology increases the potential for innovative and intuitive technology and uses, it must be balanced carefully with privacy and security.

Wearable technology is still in an ‘early adopter’ stage and although it’s being referred to as the ‘next big thing,’ as yet this is by no means certain. The biggest concern for consumers will be issues surrounding privacy and security, and initially people may not want to share so much personal data, but they could be tempted if they receive something of value in return.

One thing is certain however: as we move towards increasingly mobile technology, understanding the mindset of consumers is going to become a necessity for marketers as marketing becomes more consumer-centric. As small wearable devices go mainstream data regarding consumer behaviours will be more abundant and accessible, which will open the door to a more personal marketing experience and possibilities to build long-term relationships between consumers and brands.

As new wearable devices come onto the market, the important thing for brands, businesses and digital marketers to do is to get ahead of the game. Look at each new device and ask yourselves what data it could offer you, whether it makes sense for your products, services or brands, and what you could offer the wearers of the device in exchange for their data.