Ocado’s director of technology Paul Clarke believes that a limited battery life and having a watch tied to a specific mobile platform is a “key constraint” on the potential industrial applications for wearables such as the new Apple Watch.
Earlier this week, Apple launched an Apple Watch, larger iPhone and NFC payment technology. While the consumer applications of the technologies are obvious, retailers are also looking at what opportunities they provide to enterprises.
However, at a price of $349 (£216), Clarke believes that the Apple Watch is currently too expensive for more industrial applications, such as in Ocado’s warehouses or for its delivery van drivers.
“It is also not rugged enough for an industrial environment and is tied to one mobile platform,” Clarke said of the device’s constraints.
“So we would need something more bespoke.”
Clarke also said there could be more opportunities if wearables like smartwatches allowed people to cut out the need for a smartphone altogether.
“There is also the question as to whether such wearables should rely on your mobile phone as the communication hub, or whether, when they are in the home or the office they need to also support other communication mechanisms such as Bluetooth, Bluetooth Lite, wifi, Zigbee or other mesh networks so that you are “always connected” without needing your mobile with you,” he said.
Nonetheless, Clarke said Ocado is “watching this area with interest”, as he expects the price to fall and battery life to improve over time.
“We have internal projects running with Google Glass and other wearables,” he said.
Truly flexible omni-channel shopping
Meanwhile, a senior technology lead at VoucherCodes.co.uk believes that the Apple Watch and NFC payment processing will transform the retail industry by giving consumers the first taste of true omni-channel shopping.
A seamless customer experience across all channels, from online to bricks and mortar, is the holy grail for retailers, and Vouchercodes.co.uk, which aggregates voucher codes, deals and sales for online stores, believes that the new technology announced by Apple this week could be the key to achieving this.
“We’ll see offers loaded to mobile devices so that discounts can be automatically applied at the till as per the Passbook technology that Apple unveiled in 2012,” said Matt Wilkins, senior vice-president of product and engineering in Europe at RetailMeNot and VoucherCodes.co.uk.
“These technologies will also help retailers to better identify customer intent and help brands to improve their marketing processes. When shoppers scan items or interact with other NFC tags, such as on adverts, codes, coupons or even an NFC-enabled shopping centre map, retailers will get a far more accurate picture of the products their customers are genuinely interested.”
Wilkins also believes that the Apple Watch will be the gadget that “really launches mobile NFC payments in the mainstream”.
However, analysts have warned that Apple’s low share of the smartphone market means that the technology may not become widespread any time soon. Figures from analyst Forrester show that the Apple OS market share in Europe is just 17 percent, compared to 67 percent for Android.