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As CIOs look out at Wearables, what is it that they see?

10 Sep 2014

Think back over the past 20 years at the innovative technologies that you have absorbed into your life.

That first Nokia 3210 back in 1999. Or that Motorola RAZR2 in 2006, or that dreamy iPhone that made you give up your Blackberry.

No! Not the Blackberry, they’ll never pry it from my cold, dying hands. And then the next minute: who needs it. In Latin, ironically, one would say mobile vulgus – the public is fickle.

Regardless, add that mobile phone to ‘You’ve got mail,’ and then your first Facebook posts just ten years ago. And now it is Pinterest and Instagram and Snapchat.

What do they have in common? No one had to tell you that you wanted them. Without much fanfare, and with no convincing, you fell into them in an intoxicating stupor that you could hardly explain.

Suddenly we were calling one another, and texting, messaging, poking, a lot of BFFs and LOLs, connections, links, infectious and inane games that caused the kids in the back seat to forget the traffic jam or the long plane ride.

And now ask yourself: is this the same feeling as wearables? Jawbone UP fitness trackers and Google Glass and a dozen other wearable devices usually land on the same Uber-wrists. The fit and the well-to-do and the educated on the US East and West Coasts, or I’m Right coast v the Best coast. As incredible as the new wearable technologies are, and without underestimating the enormous potential for monitoring health, is there the same fervor? Is there a mad rush to wearables, or is there a phenomenal amount of hype pushing people towards it?

A litmus test is to look at high school and university students. In the past, they were my early indicators. They don’t appear to want to have their lives run more efficiently. Was Angry Birds about efficiency and time saving?

Hagel, Seely, Brown models might be great, but they aren’t the models younger demographics have in mind.

The point is: as CIO or IT leader, trying to gauge the enthusiasm for wearables, the implications of turning employees and customers to ‘nodes on networks’ – versus other pressing initiatives like basic data about the state of the customer across multiple channels and their likelihood to buy your product or leave you for a competitor – where or where does a wearable go in the planning cycle?

NET: we have a period of IT euphoria for wearables ahead that taps into the overall Internet of Things.

Eventually – and that eventually is more in line with IP telephony’s emergence than Facebook’s emergence – wearables will likely have a killer set of applications.

In the meantime, now is the time to stage your investments in wearable technologies and applications, a time to build use cases, a time to measure a series of small tactical projects for specific users.

Watch carefully for when that ‘eventually’ becomes today so that you are not caught flat footed (there’s an app for that), all of the while slotting in wearables in their proper place.

We may be way off on this – just speak up and say it! I have my Azumio and Strava set up, so I will know if you’ve rattled me.

By Michael Maoz - Analyst, Gartner

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