From head-up displays to smartwatches, there’s no doubt that wearable technology is impacting the way we interact with devices transforming travel. The ability to view glanceable information or quickly take action while you’re on the go is poised to transform travel.
While the launch of the Apple Watch managed to capture the lion’s share of buzz, smartwatches and wearable have been gradually growing in popularity. Kickstarter phenom Pebble saw nearly 69,000 people drop over $10 million on its first generation smartwatch – and followed that success up by shattering Kickstarter records with its second generation timepiece. Within 49 minutes, it had raised $1 million, becoming the fastest project ever to reach that milestone. Within a week, it had raised more than $13.3 million, making it the most-funded campaign in Kickstarter history. The smartwatch had firmly planted itself in the tech lover’s psyche.
And while the technology continues to maintain a mostly-niche appeal, Apple’s fashion-forward foray into the segment has expanded its appeal. Smartwatches are only one segment of the so-called wearables market, which includes various body-borne gadgets like Google Glass, fitness trackers like Jawbone, and even smart jewelry like Leaf Wearables.
These products mark only the beginning of the innovation cycle. As smart sensors become embedded throughout fabrics, objects and machines, the promise of wearables is connected into the Internet of Things to build a true direct-response and feedback mechanism between individuals and their surroundings.
Wearables in travel: it’s all about traveler experience
In travel, the impact of wearables and smartwatches is already tangible. Apple Watch apps from major airlines allow travelers to board quickly and painlessly with the flick of a wrist. No more misplaced boarding passes or precarious smartphone scanning. Directions using light vibrations change the way visitors navigate a city – a nudge left or right keeps you on track without having to pull out a phone. Lost or deactivated room keys become a thing of the past, and even pulling out a smartphone is not necessary when a wearable-enabled guest can simply tap the lock to enter.
John Samuel, SVP of Sabre Design, emphasizes how user experience must be at the center of all development for the emerging platform of wearables:
“Wearable technology is fast becoming a prominent means of customer notification and communication. We’re looking to take it even further – from a one-way means of communications to an interactive, on-the-go service experience.”
Airlines and hotels are also prime candidates for wearables. The complexity of hospitality operations demands the right information at the right time in the most useful format – and that’s generally an item that sits on an employee’s body. It’s harder to lose and a touch more resilient. The bite-size “glances” that drive these small screens also ensures that the timely delivery of information is confined to only the most essential facts. This reduces complexity and room for operator error while also increasing efficiency.
Another area of impact is safety, a mission critical piece for airlines and ground transportation businesses. Many wearables offer biometric tracking as a core feature, which gives the industry a new way to monitor potentially life-threatening issues. Think about heart rates of pilots, air traffic controllers, train conductors and bus drivers as a key measure of passenger safety.
As this technology matures, the cost inevitably will come down. The integrations also will begin to expand beyond limited use cases and become yet another “how did we live without this” technology. While there are certainly privacy concerns and the “creep factor,” the benefits and efficiencies of an invisible layer of communication in an ever-more-congested planet will convince most of us to get on board with the wearables revolution.
Sabre Labs outlines the evolution of wearables and highlights the best use cases in travel and beyond. Read more here!