iwatch.jpg (1625×1219)Wearable technology is no longer the stuff of science-fiction. It’s real, and like the smart phone and tablet before it, has the potential to disrupt the advertising industry in a big way.

With a predicted market value of $30 billion by 2024, wearable technology has become a hot topic in the tech world, and a number of brands are leading the charge, with products such as Google Glass, the Qualcomm Toq, Garmin’s Vivofit and the newly released Apple iWatch, which are causing quite a stir amongst tech-savvy consumers. 

What is wearable technology?

Wearable technologies are clothing and accessories that incorporate computer and advanced electronics. They can come in a variety of guises smart watches, arm bands, glasses/heads-up displays, smart fabrics and jewellery. Some people are even developing programmable make-up, while others are designing temporary tattoos that can monitor pregnancy.

Generally, wearable technology will have some form of communications capability, to enable the wearer access to information in real time.

While Google Glass is the eponymous example of wearable devices, the market is exploding with wearable gadgets. Health-focused wearables like Fitbit monitor the distance we walk each day, the daily calories burned and even our sleep patterns. Watch-like bands, such as Samsung’s Galaxy Gear communicate with our smart phones, to give us at-a-glance connectivity, and the new NFC ring can be used to unlock our front door, smart phone or tablet (as long as they are NFC enabled).

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Advertising Opportunities

The possibilities for wearable technology are endless and it opens up a whole new world of data gathering, branding, and storytelling opportunities for marketers, who will have access to troves of unique data, based on people’s physical activity and behavior.

This data can be used to offer customers targeted information and offers on products relevant to their activity. For example, a fitness brand could send an electronic discount coupon to a customer as they are browsing in-store for new running shoes, or a record company could address individuals who spend a lot of time in transit and therefore might enjoy music.

Advertising Challenges With Wearable Technology

Marketers are already anticipating the wearable craze, by devising ways to deliver advertising messages to the various interfaces, but before jumping on the wearables bandwagon, there are some challenges to be considered.

The first challenge for marketers is working with wearable device’s small screen size - for one, wearables don’t allow for typing, and because of the limited screen size, when browsing the Internet, only the top ranking search result will be displayed.

Trust will also be another big challenge in terms of consumer privacy and data collection. Unsolicited advertising could be distracting–or even dangerous–on watches, smart glasses, and the like. Contextual scenarios will be key, based on scenarios the user has opted into.

Topics: Advertising, Wearable Technology

Tim Nichols

Written by Tim Nichols

Tim Nichols is a founding partner at ExactDrive, a digital media buying agency with white label, reseller and managed service options available. ExactDrive plans, manages, and optimizes online advertising campaigns with the objective of delivering measurable value and empowering clients to find precisely targeted audiences. ExactDrive has offices in Minneapolis, MN and Milwaukee, WI.

Tim Nichols is also a contributing author on Forbes.com.