Team explores wearables for brand communication

Two participants testing wearables. Pic: Goldsmiths

Two participants testing wearables. Pic: Goldsmiths

The potential for wearable technology to be a tool for marketing purposes is being examined by two Goldsmiths academics.

Yael Gerson and Chris Brauer from the Institute of Management Studies are working with marketing agency Mindshare to establish what opportunities wearables pose for brand communication.

“We identified six key states that wearables can fulfil,” said Jeremy Pounder, one of the Mindshare researchers on the project.

In the study they equipped 14 participants between the age of 16 and 40 years with different gadgets such as watches, fitness bands, heart monitors or smart rings.  These gadgets automatically gathered data about the participant, and allowed them to communicate their experiences with the researchers.

The participants said the innovations made their lives easier, for example by opening locks or fitness tracking.

The gadgets also make it possible to share emotions with family and friends by sending heartbeats. In a commercial application, however, heart rate information is more likely to go to a doctor or insurance company who is monitoring the users’ health.

Analysing such intimate indicators raised some questions about privacy: “The participants were happy to share their health indicators but they were rather reserved regarding their emotions,” says Pounder.

Advertisers could also use the sensitive data to inform their consumers about new offers and increase personal targeting.

Not everyone is happy about the use of such intimate data. Another Goldsmiths academic, Professor Marianne Franklin from the Department of Media and Communications and an expert on digital privacy, said: “We are being completely lead by the new techie nose.”

She is concerned that data use of this kind would be a major invasion of privacy unless “checks and balances are introduced against abuses for commercial or indeed other reasons.”

Franklin added: “The data that is being uploaded by devices, and how they relate to the Internet of Things, is already enormous and being stored in clouds, or servers owned mainly by US if not other private conglomerates.”

Whether wearables will be included in our everyday life as much as smartphones remains unclear. “I think they will become a fashion object like watches or jewellery,” Pounder predicts.

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