Friday TechMunch: Apple Gets ‘Personal’

This week marked Apple’s first big launch since the iPad. On Tuesday this week, Apple unveiled its hugely hyped smartwatch alongside two new iPhone models and a smartphone cashless payment system, Apple Pay. The mobile payments market has been slow to take off but with this last offering, Apple’s really hoping to kick-start the service.

Mobile payments aside, it was the smartwatch that really stole the show this year, and no wonder! As smartphone technology reaches a 70 per cent saturation point in markets such as the UK and USA, the wearable technology market is seen as a massive growth area for mobile technology companies. Over the past year smartwatches in particular have been the subject of intense scrutiny as Samsung, LG and Motorola have all launched a bid for our wrists.

This latest iWatch is expected to combine health and fitness tracking with more traditional communications, as well as store music, apps and provide directions to the wearer. This is also the first product to have been fully developed under chief executive, Tim Cook, who called it “the most personal device we’ve ever created.”

But as wearable gadgets begin the inevitable move from our newspapers and into our workplaces, with the potential to transform how companies are doing businesses, should companies be worried? Well, yes and no.

There has been a steady rise in companies decking employees out with devices that could potentially help them do their jobs better. But will businesses be comfortable if they are unable to tell when and what their employees are recording?

Maybe not, but giving wearables to employees and customers could allow companies to gather subtle data about how we move and act. Smart businesses could use that information to help employees work more efficiently or improve their customers’ buying experience.

In offices, smart-badges can already tell how engaged or stressed employees are during meetings, while warehouse crews with smart-specs are warned if they’re about to fill an order incorrectly or crash their forklift.

Ultimately, for businesses, these gadgets represent a huge opportunity, but also a big risk. If companies push for wearable gadgets to notch up efficiency and productivity it will be perceived by many as a heavy handed “Big Brother” tactic. Instead, businesses need to link their goals with that of their employees —such as using wearables to make an employee’s job safer or more interesting, or giving customers a better deal.

The #AppleWatch device aims to change the way we communicate by sending and receiving messages, answering calls made to your iPhone, and sharing personalised health information. According to Jony Ive, Apple’s senior vice president of design, it “blurs the boundary between physical object and user interface.”

So, what’s next for wearable technology and will both business and the individual reap the rewards?