Wearable

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Travel Tech

The New York Times this week assessed a radical proposal that was first floated by a medical doctor in the Washington Post a few months back. Dr. Vivek Wadhwa wrote personally at that time of his belief in artificial intelligence as a guide to human medical health, and recently the medic spoke at a health innovation conference in San Francisco on the matter.

Favouring AI to human doctors

During his speech, Wadhwa suggested that he would trust the opinions of an AI program “over a doctor any day”, asserting that artificial intelligence provides “perfect knowledge.” Observers indicated that when attendees of the talk were asked to vote, roughly one-third agreed with this assertion.

While many would still certainly prefer the human touch at this point in time, health provisions and tracking-related technology is developing and growing in popularity rapidly. In accordance with this trend, the recent mobile releases from the biggest consumer electronics firms on the planet such as Apple and Samsung have specifically focused on health-related benefits.

Thus, the New York Times reported on numerous innovations available at the San Francisco conference, including a device that attaches to the Apple iPhone and effectively turns it into an otoscope so you can see if your child has an ear infection. Other devices included were an application that enables usesr to check blood alcohol level, along with mobile home cholesterol test kits and wearable devices that track the quality of respiration.

Dr. Wadhwa paints the picture of a near future in which mobile devices play a direct and regular role in monitoring and advising us regarding our health and physical condition. Central to this revolution will be wearable technology. Dr. Wadhwa points to wearable devices such as Fitbit, Nike, and Jawbone already commonly being used to monitor the intensity of our activity, with apps on the way to monitor our blood pressure, blood glucose, blood oxygen, respiration, sleep, and even our bowel and bladder habits.

Potential for wearable tech

The wearable focus of this phenomenon is logical in many ways, not least because such consumer electronics products can be worn at all times, and therefore accessed by medical staff in an emergency. The concept is not dissimilar from a medical bracelet. And with the giants at Apple about to release their first wearable device in the shape of the Apple Watch, the wearable technology market may be about to take off.

And this could provide huge opportunities for travel-related businesses. The Digital Tourism Think Tank has reported previously on the potential of wearable technology for travel companies. Thus, the travel industry is already replete with examples of wearable technology being used in an innovative yet practical fashion.

Some examples of this that the Digital Tourism Think Tank has discussed in previous articles are Vueling’s partnership with Sony to create a smartwatch-based boarding pass, Virgin’s tie-in with Google Glass and Sony Smartwatches, and Expedia’s recent Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch app, which notifies users of important personal information related to flights and travel abroad. We can expect such tech to migrate to the Apple Watch now that it has been officially announced.

New wearable innovations

Thus, new examples of travel-related companies taking advantage of wearable technology are cropping up on a frequent basis now. The China manufactured travel app Qunar is already compatible with the Galaxy Gear, enabling Samsung fans to book flights and hotels on the go. And the mobile app TripIt, which helps travellers plan trips abroad, has also recently announced a version that is compatible with the Samsung smartwatch.

Other wearable technology is tapping into the social community vibe which is so important in travel marketing. The Memoto campaign on Kickstarter is promising an extremely unique project; a wearable camera that pins to the chest and records two photos every minute (although this setting can be altered by users). The crowdfunded initiative is dubbed by its founders as a camera and app which “gives you a searchable and shareable photographic memory.” This could be an innovation that really appeals to travel marketers, given the popularity and power of vlogging and other photo, social media and community-driven marketing initiatives.

There were other highly interesting wearable travel-related items featured at the recent 2014 Consumer Electronics Show. Perhaps a particular highlight was the fascinating concept of wearable ski goggles equipped with HD cameras to enable piste runs to be, not only recorded, but actually live streamed straight to the Internet. At the warmer end of the travel market, a smart bracelet was also showcased that provides real time information on UV exposure to wearers.

Wearable growth to be exponential

Although wearable technology has yet to become mainstream, and the smartwatch user base is still small, when massive corporations such as Apple and Google become involved in the technology, it is clear that the tide is likely to turn eventually. Thus, it may not be entirely surprising that research carried out by the International Data Corporation predicts a market growth in smartwatches of nearly 600 percent; from the current 19 million wearable devices, to touching 112 million in just four years’ time.

The health industry may be the catalyst for the uptake of wearable technology, but in the long run this consumer electronics revolution may have far more wide reaching influence. Smart digital marketers and commercial managers involved in travel-related businesses will already be monitoring the influence of this coming technology.

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