Wearable technology, for the most part, can perform many of the same tasks a mobile phone or laptop can. However, in some areas, it can outperform them entirely. Having a tendency to be more sophisticated than their hand-held cousins, wearable tech like the Apple Watch or Google Glass can provide sensory and scanning features which are unavailable on mobiles and laptops making the user experience more seamless than ever.
It is common consensus that adopting technological devices does for the most part benefit the average person’s life, whether that be in health, recreational use or communicating with others from the opposite side of the planet. For business travellers there is an offshoot of technology that seems to go hand in hand, or hand on wrist – wearable tech. There can be no other sector that is engaged more with wearable tech and more in line to benefit from it than businessmen and women, especially those who travel often. But what are the true benefits to business travellers?
The nascent industry’s interest in business travellers is totally logical. Wearable technology can allow business travellers to access contacts and information in an easy and accessible way, equating to a stress-free travel experience. Following the high uptake of its Apple Watch app, British Airways introduced new scanners for smartwatches, which allows customers to board planes by sliding their wrist under the new “Scan and Go” devices (136 scanners have being installed in Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 3 and 5 as of December 2015).
Business travellers stand to benefit from other new ways of becoming connected. Smartwatches are leading the way with mobile boarding passes, but this is just the beginning – paper passports and physical visas could become obsolete in the near future. Even credit cards could become a thing of the past with apps like Apply Pay having made a huge impact on the way people make transactions. Knowing that Apple is almost solely responsible for the adoption of new technologies it could indicate that smartwatches will become more popular in 2016.
Opinion is split on the genuine practicality of wearables in travel. In a poll conducted by buyingbusinesstravel.com, commentators suggested that whilst wearable technology has its benefits, it will take a number of years for it to become normal practice amongst travellers with predictions ranging from one to three years. Considering that the industry is very much in the embryotic stages of development, it would suggest a level of maturity would need to be reached before wearable technology can be confidently relied upon.
An optimist, like myself, would suggest that the potential impact of wearable technology within business travel could drastically alter the status quo and change the rhythm of the customer experience entirely; managing itineraries, booking via wearables and even traveller messaging are functions not only on the horizon but also desired by the consumer. There are two things all travel players should be doing to leverage wearable tech:
1. Ensure your mobile strategy is future-proofed – Wearable technology is still heavily dependent on smartphones, aligning your mobile strategy to cater for both technologies will make touchpoints more visible and the customer experience more dynamic.
2. Consolidate traveller data – With the entry of wearables into the technology discourse, more and more data becomes available as individuals become more and more connected. Finding correlations between the different channels of data will drive new developments to engage with travellers.