Wearable Tech in Paradise

Once a year, I escape the real world and head down to a small Caribbean island called Bonaire. It’s a kind of an “off-the-grid” type of vacation where coffee shops claim to offer Wi-Fi, but happily don’t deliver on their promise… and no one notices. Do not go to Bonaire if you want to get some work done. In other words, it is paradise for a week or so.

As you can imagine, when even basic Internet access is not a priority, there’s not much demand for activity trackers and other related wearables. “Don’t count, just do” should be the unspoken motto of the island, so I was a little shocked to notice that people working in the bars were all sporting wearable tech on their wrists.

The wearable is part of the point of sale system. Before you can use the bar system, you must touch the wrist band to the register’s sensor so that it can authenticate you. This means that not only is there a basic level of security, but the transactions for each bar person can be managed, and access can be limited just to the team members who are working the current shift.

So what’s my point here? Actually, I have two. Firstly, it’s really easy to fall into the trap of considering wearable tech as being simply an activity tracker or smartwatch solution (with a little bit of glass thrown in for good measure) but there are many commercial opportunities within this market too. POS authentication is just the tip of the iceberg for commercial implementations, and companies such as Disney have been quick to embrace wearables as part of the consumer experience.

But secondly, even within the pure-play consumer space, there is life beyond the step count. While the concept of a band being used for authentication has so far seen minimal traction, we expect to see a merging between the smart/automated home and wearable tech that could drive more authentication use cases. Ideally, the band is uniquely placed to provide authentication for the various in-home systems, not least of which is the computer and could help to replace the myriad of passwords that we all try to remember.

And of course, it would be wrong to consider this as simply a wrist-based opportunity. Plantronics, for example, demonstrated an authentication solution using an enhanced headset at CES, proving that there is more than one way to skin an authenticated cat. As we brace ourselves for Mobile World Congress next week, innovative applications of wearable tech are top of our “want to see” list.