Wearables Helping People With Disabilities – A SXSW Talk

Readers of this blog and of my syndicated reports know that I’ve spent a great deal of time lately researching and analyzing the market for wearable devices and the emerging wearables ecosystem. I’m excited to announce that I’ll be co-presenting a talk at SXSW with Jen Quinlan (Twitter: @QuirkyInsider) about a specific sub-segment of the wearables market – how wearable devices, in concert with the Internet of Things, can help people overcome various sorts of disabilities.

Jen conceived of this talk, and was kind enough to invite me to collaborate with her. And I was thrilled, particularly when I heard about the topic she had proposed. Why? I’m interested – and hope you will be too – because:

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Wearables Require A New Kind Of Ecosystem

In the fast-moving markets of wearables and IoT, it's easy to be dazzled by new technologies. But what's more impressive to Forrester is a coherent, disruptive business model. I've written that 2014 will be the year of wearables 2.0, when select vendors develop real wearable business models. To help that journey along, I'd like to offer up a hypothesis for a new industry axiom:

In the era of wearables and the Internet of Things, tech companies must create a new kind of ecosystem  an ecosystem not of developers, hardware makers, or services companies, but of brands, healthcare providers, retailers, financial services companies, and governments.

I'm still testing this hypothesis out, and will write about it in future research. In the meantime, I'd like to hear your examples. To give you a sense of what I'm talking about, it's an ecosystem comprised of companies in:

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Google Aims For More Eyeballs With VSP Deal

Google, the online search superpower, has for years sought to maximize "eyeballs" -- in search marketing, a colloquial term for ad impressions viewed online.

Lately, though, Google's been going after a new kind of eyeballs. The literal kind.

Hot off of its announcement of a future product roadmap for smart contact lenses, Google today announced a partnership with VSP -- the largest optical health insurance provider in the United States -- for Google Glass. The New York Times quoted me saying, "the key business model of the year for wearables is becoming embedded into the health care system." By injecting wearables into health care:

  • The addressable market expands. VSP serves 59 million members with vision care insurance. 
  • Costs go down. VSP will offer subsidized frames and prescription lenses tailored to Google Glass. Some VSP members save additional money on purchases with pre-tax payroll deductions for the money they spend on optical care.
  • Credibility goes up. By coordinating with opticians and opthamologists, Google Glass can be recognized as consistent with healthy optical practices.
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Can Google Glass Overcome Social Stigma With Enterprise Scenarios?

This week, Google released a new promotional video for Google Glass that featured a non-consumer scenario – public safety. In this case, firefighters can use Glass to help them in a hands-free way in the field. For example, they can pull up an architectural schematic of a burning building before they run inside. They can pull up design specs for specific models of cars before using the jaws of life to save a crash victim. Or they can locate the nearest fire hydrant. Take a look:

Public safety is well-established as a scenario for wearable technology – as Motorola Solutions and other vendors have shown in their product portfolios. In this case, it also pulls at the heart-strings: Who’s more beloved by the general public than firefighters and other first responders?

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Google's Smart Contact Lenses Extend The Long Tail Of Wearables

On January 16, 2014, Google announced its smart contact lens project. But it’s not what you might have immediately thought (or hoped) – i.e., some sort of Google Glass display transferred to contact lens format. (Though that technology might someday exist). Instead, Google’s smart contact lens project is working toward productizing a healthcare wearable device that monitors blood glucose levels.

I’ve written a more extensive report that you can read and download here. But let me offer you a sneak peak at the analysis:

  • Smart contact lenses aim at diabetics, but will have other uses. Although Google didn’t mention these uses, blood glucose data is also valuable to other groups of patients – from overweight people aiming to lose weight to migraine sufferers.
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Wearables 2.0 at CES 2014: Richer Business Models And Enterprise Relevance

Las Vegas – Hello from the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2014, an industry gathering point for technology vendors, retailers, partners, media, and industry analysts. Like many, I’m here to meet with the innovators, witness demonstrations, and assess the state of the technology industry in 2014 (and beyond).

As they were at last year’s conference, wearables will be a very hot topic at CES 2014. But in the fast-moving world of technology, a year is a long time. In 2014, wearables will graduate to their 2.0 state. To understand this 2.0 iteration, Forrester released two new reports that clients can read and download. The first is an overarching view of the enterprise aspect of wearable technology, The Enterprise Wearables Journey. The second focuses on wearable health, Building A Fitter Business With Wearable Technology. Let me offer a sneak peak into why Wearables 2.0 is a critical topic.

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Predictions for 2014: Computing Technologies In The Age Of The Customer

I've published a report for Forrester clients, "Predictions 2014: Mobility and Computing Technologies in the Age of the Customer." This blog post offers a sneak peak into the content.

With 2013 coming to an end, it’s time to bring out the crystal ball and make some predictions about 2014. Those who follow Forrester’s research will know that we’re living in the age of the customer, a period in which customer obsession will be the key to winning in all markets. Computing is a critical technology element in the age of the customer: The use of tablets by sales professionals creates richer experiences for prospects and customers, even as the use of wearable technologies by health professionals helps phlebotomists find the vein in a patient’s arm more quickly. Computing is a front-line, customer facing experience that helps companies win and serve customers more effectively.

With that context in mind, I present six meta-trends that will be critical for computing in 2014:

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Dell, Tesla, Space X, and Taking Chances: From the Floor At DellWorld 2013

DellWorld 2013 showcases the newly-private Dell’s rediscovered sense of mission: Founder and CEO Michael Dell described the new company as the “world’s biggest startup.” Freed from the short-term orientation required of publicly traded companies, Dell can accelerate its innovation and risk-taking while following through on its emerging vision.

That vision is to help enterprise customers Transform (e.g. migrate from mainframes to the cloud), Connect (e.g. provide mobile devices and device management services), Inform (e.g. leverage big data analytics through software and services), and Protect (e.g. employ comprehensive security solutions).

Michael Dell spent a good deal of time emphasizing that Dell now has the opportunity to make bigger bets. To underscore that message, he invited Tesla and Space X CEO Elon Musk to appear onstage. Musk knows how to make an entrance, riding into the convention center in one of his company’s cars:

Elon Musk told several stories while onstage, including the revelation that, during Tesla's darkest hours, he pretty much figured the company would fail. But he listed his favorite aspect of the Tesla business as creating a sense of "delight" among the car's buyers -- including Michael Dell, who purchased one online.

Musk's presence emphasized a number of admirable qualities to which the new Dell aspires. Risk-taking, entrepreneurialism, disruption, and strategic vision. “We need more people like Elon out there taking big risks,” Michael Dell said at one point, reemphasizing the theme of taking chances. 

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Apple Purchases PrimeSense, Opening Up New Computing Experiences – And Enterprise Solutions

Apple has completed an acquisition of the Israeli firm PrimeSense, a sensing company whose technology has powered Microsoft’s popular Xbox Kinect for Xbox 360. (Microsoft moved to an in-house technology for the Xbox Kinect for Xbox One).

For the consumer market, Apple’s purchase opens up a number of tantalizing product possibilities:

  • Apple TV. The long-rumored Apple television set – as well as the long-extant AppleTV set top device – could both benefit from motion-sensing and depth/color sensing, particularly for next-generation interactive television applications.
  • Mobile and wearable products. PrimeSense has made a strong effort to miniaturize its components, and the next logical step would be to embed its technologies into mobile or wearable computing products. While often seen as a motion-sensing technology, PrimeSense is at base a depth- and color- perception technology that could potentially someday be used to recognize people – or to help the blind navigate the streets.
  • Customized e-commerce. In 2011, I wrote a report suggesting that Kinect and other sensing technologies could be used by companies to offer mass customized clothing and furniture. Imagine scanning your house – or your body – to receive custom-build cabinets or bespoke clothing shipped to you in short order. PrimeSense technology can already empower these mass customized scenarios.
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Driving Technologies That Will Delight Customers

Businesses that thrive and grow in the age of the customer are obsessed with customer delight: the most successful companies are reinventing themselves to systematically understand and serve increasingly powerful customers. This business reality creates new imperatives for everyone inside an organization, and infrastructure & operations (I&O) professionals are not immune. So the question becomes, how does I&O participate in the transformation of the enterprise toward customer obsession?

The answer to this question is important, because technology's role in business is rapidly changing -- from a world in which Information Technology (IT) enabled a company to function more efficiently, to a world of Business Technology (BT), which we define as technology, systems, and processes to win, serve, and retain customers. Yet customer-facing technologies aren't always (or even often) the traditional role of I&O. So how can I&O participate?

How about starting with a simple dictum? Spend more time on technologies that will inspire and delight customers, either directly or indirectly. To start this journey, I'd like you to watch this short video of how a digital billboard has gone viral:

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