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Unlike handheld devices such as smartphones, wearables can become attuned to our bodies, sending biofeedback to the apps that control them. But their primary function at the moment is to make it easier for us to receive and react to information.
'Wearables' have existed forever (remember the calculator watch or even digital hearing aids?), but when we talk about wearables today, we first think of the Apple Watch, which in just a year and a half has made us all want to own a piece of wearable technology.
For example, you're walking through the airport terminal, cup of coffee in one hand, your suitcase in the other, as you head to Gate 4. Your smartphone beeps; both of your hands are full, so you glance at your smart watch and head to Gate 9 as redirected by your app. When you get there, you scan your watch to display your boarding pass and the airline knows a frequent flyer is about to board and thus will have your preferred drink ready for takeoff. And there's no need to worry about your suitcase. Thanks to the Bluetooth chip inside, you can check the weight and then lock it remotely, directly from your phone. That's of course after it has charged your smartphone while you're waiting in the departure lounge!
Smart watches, luggage and jewellery are still in their infancies, but their adoption will most certainly be fast and furious, with more wearables hitting the mass market in the next two years. To keep up with this pace, travel sellers will need to be mobile-ready with every new product and service, ensuring that they are designed for or can be adapted to wearable devices. Not only that,the travel ecosystem needs to be prepared for wearables . There's no point having your boarding card loaded to your smart watch if the airport doesn't have compatible scanning devices.
Amadeus is certainly keeping up with the front runners. Today, our mobile apps can communicate with smart watches and we are in the process of developing dedicated apps for wearables. Amadeus is also collaborating on a pilot initiative with a major car manufacturer and group of airports in France, which will see airports connecting to cars, sharing trip and travel data to make cars smarter. This will transform your journey to the airport from: “Let's hope we make our flight on time” to “Take this route which has less traffic,” “We have found you the closest parking space on arrival” and “You are checked in to your flight which will leave from Gate 2.” Check out our debriefs from the PhocusWright Conference for more on this exciting initiative.
What's clear is that once retailers have succeeded in developing an effective mobile/wearable strategy, interactions with customers will be seamless, allowing for true personalisation. This will in turn create opportunities to generate up-sell and cross-sell revenues, but, more importantly, cement customer loyalty and retention.
In the coming years, we will see some outlandish wearable inventions that have no real use and some simple but effective ones that we'll wonder how we ever lived without. I'm certainly a wearables fan and already have my smart watch (which I can use to make calls, send texts and browse the web), my smart wallet (which beeps when I can't find it) and my smart suitcase (which weighs itself, locks itself and can be tracked from my phone). They save me precious time, give me peace of mind and ensure I'm always connected in this crazy, fast-paced world we live in. And when I need to disconnect, I just turn them all off!