Next week, on September 9, Apple is expected to announce both the iPhone 6 and their 'iWatch' wearable initiative.
The Apple rumour mill is of course already in overdrive, with much of the commentary on the products themselves - the form factor and dimensions, battery life, new Lightning connector with reversible USB, plus materials such as the sapphire glass screens and the next generation of TouchID.
Yes, these devices will be beautifully crafted and my iPhone5 will be instantly green with jealousy over the new, new thing I will be coveting. They will keep getting smaller and solving the most critical restriction of mobile devices evolution - energy storage and consumption.
However, the devices will not be the real news here.
Apple has revolutionized the music business, and democratized the application development business among other transformational 'dents in the universe' they have made.
When I worked for Nokia in 2007, a stated development objective was this: "Today you don't leave home without your mobile, your wallet or your keys. We now need to replace the wallet and the keys." Nokia have not done this, but Apple will.
The 'iWatch' will represent three new industry transformations:
1. Money. Apple has 800 million active iTunes accounts and most of these already have credit cards attached to them. Today we buy our content and apps from the Apple store with ease using a TouchID fingerprint. These new devices will include a Near Field Communiction (NFC) chip that will enable mobile payments to be made through the device with the same fingerprint security and charged to the credit card on your Apple account. The bigger play of course will be to disintermediate the credit cards completely - with Apple's cash flow and growing capital balance, it is reasonable to imagine an Apple bank itself in the future.
2. Health. The 'iWatch' will dramatically change the amount of data about our body, health and behaviour that is available to us (and others...). While the now discontinued Nike FuelBand proved popular, it was primarily an accelerometer on your wrist measuring movement alone. The 'iWatch' is rumoured to measure this plus your heart rate and body temperature - and recent hires and acquisitions by Apple suggest that future sensors may include tests for other medical conditions such as blood glucose. Working alongside Apple's 'HealthKit' suite of software, the user can track calorific intake, and calorific source alongside this body data to give a clearer picture of health and an awareness of what changes the user's feeling of vitality and wellness. Expect better insurance premiums if you have an iWatch and are willing to let your insurance provider have access to the data. Like the banking industry, Apple must also look at the health insurance industry as a dinosaur ready for revolution based on personal behaviours.
3. Security and Context. Sensors in the 'iWatch' will know when it's on the wrist of the owner, removing the need for fingerprint or other security input when it comes to contextual applications. These applications include security lock systems such as for your front door, mail box or office file cabinet, and convenience for other 'key moments' such as for your car ignition. Beyond security, the power of context comes into play when a device knows who you are, where you are and with the many sensors can reasonably predict how you are feeling and where you are relative to the 'shape' of your day. This will enable predictive suggestions for behaviour, consumption and purchase.
The 'iWatch' will also continue to transform how we relate to personal technology in general. The voice interactive agent Siri continues to evolve and will increase our reliance on voice as the key input method. The feeling of talking to a 'thing', in conjunction with all the data you are allowing this thing to track and keep changes the way we think about personal technology. It becomes less visible but far far more pervasive.
What does this mean for your brand? Here are a few questions to consider:
How will you earn the right to all this insight? To horribly twist a quote from Spiderman: "With great data comes great responsibility". People will allow technology into their lives while it improves those lives, and reduce it when the utility falls or when it hits what I will call the 'creepiness barrier' - that moment when you have been served an ad, or made a suggestion for content that is creepily predictive of what you were feeling.
You surely know today who you sell to, many of you will know how and where, but do you know what they are feeling when they buy? Long ago, impulse purchases were all about the 'tat' around the cash register to get you to upsell your shopping basket. Today, there are online equivalent last minute add-ons during the online purchase journey. New methods of tracking consumer context will change how impulse purchase works - the ease of purchase will increase the relative price that an impulse can be, and the power of context will make conversion rates higher.
Purchase versus Consumption
Is your brand at the right moments of truth? Procter & Gamble talks about winning at the key moments of truth - this is not just about securing the sale but ensuring that at the point of consumption the product is a winner. Increased context data will mean that brands can prompt not only the purchase but, importantly for all future purchases, can also prompt the consumption moment and reinforce the experience.
My last prediction is that it will not be called 'iWatch' and I will be sorely disappointed if it is. My guess is to call it 'iBand', because this has very little at all to do with replacing the watch on your wrist. Your watch is already long redundant. It is your wallet, keychain, bank and health insurer that should be worried, because they are the targets for the next Apple revolution.