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Understanding wearables and the ‘synched’ lifestyle

apple watch

via Flickr © Yasunobu Ikeda (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Fitness tracking (Fitbits and the like) and faster payments are currently considered by consumers to be the most important uses for wearable technology according to media agency Mindshare and Goldsmiths, University of London, which have been doing some research.

Their SHIFT 2015 project is an attempt to understand the key consumer motivations for wearable technologies and then, of course, to work out how ‘brands’ can get in and exploit any ‘opportunities’ that may present themselves.

In fact the research has developed some useful abstractions for understanding how and why wearables might work, beyond the obvious fashion statements.

The researchers have used consumer device testing, workshops, expert interviews and a survey, to get a handle. The following imperatives for wearable technology were identified.


‘Flow’, as it sounds, is about making everyday life smoother or easier. There’s a link here with the famous Sergey Brin (Google founder) observation that ‘smartphones were emasculating’ in that they tended to have the user bent over and rubbing a little piece of glass - the ideal search technology, he implied, would find information before a person had to ask for it.

So no need to jag up your day by stooping over a little screen - you should ideally be able to ‘flow’ through tasks and information points. So ‘flowing’ to use slightly less startling imagery that Sergey’s is identified by the research to be the most popular technology need - identified by 36 per cent of UK smartphone users.

Almost a third of respondents were interested in the use of wearables to order goods in advance to save queuing, others could see value in changing heating or lighting preferences upon entering a room and even using wearables just to open car doors - there’s lots of soothing ‘flow’ to be had.


‘Reflection’ came in second and was the use of wearables data to identify ways to just improve your life both physically or emotionally. This included fitness trackers which have already improved the lives of 76 per cent of current users according to the research, with half of smartphone users interested in the prospect of wearables measuring and analysing sleep patterns.

Not surprisingly 13 per cent of UK smartphone users say they are very likely to get at least one wearable device in the next 12 months, meaning 8 million adults or 16 per cent of the UK population will use them by 2016.

As for ‘brand’ opportunities, the report also identified five ways to take advantage of this growing platform, embracing both advertising and content:

  • Push notifications – opted in advertiser alerts delivered to the wearable based on context
  • Search ads – paid search ads delivered to the wearable after a voice search command
  • Brand utility – services created for the consumer that are operated on the wearable
  • Brand experience – real world experiences powered by wearables
  • Content personalisation – delivery of personalised content on other platforms based on wearables data

The full Shift 2015 report can be downloaded here.

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