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Computing devices that can be worn, embedded in clothing or even implanted. The smartwatch and fitness band remain the most identifiable examples — but a vast range of wearable devices is starting to emerge.

One of the main advantages of wearables is not that they’re just portable computers, but wearing them confers some benefit to the user — whether that’s a watch that tracks physiological data or glasses with inbuilt AR.

What is it?

Any computing device that can be worn. Typically, the act of wearing should confer some benefit beyond portability.

What’s in it for you?

Wearables provide convenience for your customers and can provide useful insights into behaviors that can inspire new services and offerings.

What are the trade-offs?

Wearables can collect unprecedented amounts of personal data — putting huge responsibility on you to safeguard that information and ensure you have consent.

How is it being used?

Smartwatches, fitness bands and AR-glasses are the first generation of wearables. But this is a fast-moving space.

What is it?

A wearable is any computing device that can be worn, embedded in clothing or even implanted in a person. Typically, the purpose of a wearable is that the act of wearing it conveys some advantage to the user.

So for instance, a simple fitness tracker might just record the wearer’s heart rate or sleep patterns to help them monitor activity levels. More sophisticated instrumentation can offer further benefits: GPS tracking, contactless payments, even blood sugar monitoring.

Common examples of wearables are fitness bands, smartwatches and smart glasses; some of the more exotic use cases can be found in medicine, sports science and in the military, where getting fine-grained physiological data can be important.

What’s in for you?

Much like smartphones unleashed a sea change in how consumers engage with enterprises, wearables have huge potential to introduce new ways to interact with your customers.

For many enterprises, this isn’t about building a wearable device but having an offering on one. So for instance, fitness app Strava has become so integral in many of its users’ lives that their preference for wearable devices is based on how well it supports Strava.

The ability to collect data from wearable devices is also creating new business models. For instance, life insurance company Vitality offers incentives for customers to get free Apple smartwatches. If the consumer adopts healthy behaviors, which can be tracked on the watch, the likelihood of health insurance payouts drops.

What are the trade offs?

Many of the wearables on the market today track highly personal data, such as location or health data.. And that carries many risks.

Safeguarding personal data is clearly paramount. But with consumer awareness rising when it comes to privacy, companies need to analyze carefully what data they really need to collect. Collecting personal data that’s not needed can easily be seen as intrusive, and damage your brand.

How is it being used?

Most wearables today fall into the fitness band and smartwatch category. Apple is also believed to be making significant strides with some kind of glasses device.

But we’re still at the early stages. As small, IoT-enabled sensors become ever cheaper, it becomes feasible to embed some type of computing device into almost anything that can be worn.

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