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Where wearable is headed

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With wearable device technology maturing rapidly and gaining consumer traction, the race is on between manufacturers to capture market share in this new product category, writes CHARLENE MUNILALL, GM for the Huawei Consumer Business Group.

The term ‘product category’ is misleading, however, and the brands that are able to grasp this are the ones that will win this race. The term is misleading because wearable technology is the sum of many parts that have to work together in a co-ordinated, cohesive manner.

A wearable device is but one of these many parts – an important part, obviously – and brands unable to leverage the other component parts in the equation will be relegated to the minor leagues.

These other components include the smartphone that drives the wearable technology, the network infrastructure that carries the data, the value-added services that elevate the wearable device beyond a luxury to a necessity, and the innovation that encapsulates all these different elements.

In essence, this is a question of convergence.

Convergence is a subject that has been at the forefront of the enterprise market for some time and the benefits of an ecosystem designed to simplify enterprise IT will soon be seen the hallmark of consumer wearable technology.

In layman’s terms this would be termed a ‘smart life’ or ‘digital lifestyle’, and wearables will undeniably be at the centre of this evolution.

We are already seeing many examples of this vision of a smart, connected world. Devices ranging from intelligent home management systems, smart televisions and devices that are fully integrated and accessible from a mobile device are but some of the examples.

And wearable technology is the obvious candidate to pull together these various systems and services. This is largely because of the convenience factor that makes this technology so compelling, but equally the increasing integration and functionality built into these devices.

Local critics of wearables often point to these utopian views on the future of the technological possibilities by pointing to the undeniable differences in need across a continent such as Africa.

There is certainly merit to the argument, unless one acknowledges that wearable technology’s primary innovation is to address a need and introduce convenience.

In Africa those needs are definitely different from a consumer sitting in New York or London. But they are driven by the need to be digitally, socially and financially included. And wearable technology certainly has a role to play in offering this to African consumers.

The manner in which Africa has leapfrogged other technologies since the introduction of mobile telephony, it is not difficult to acknowledge that wearables hold the same potential for new and exciting innovations to be rapidly adopted and become part of everyday life.

Huawei has adopted a strategy of trialling new innovations on the continent as it is the perfect test bed for consumer adoption.

There is definitely no lack of will in Africa to adopt technology that can contribute to a smart life. There might currently be infrastructure, network coverage and disposable income challenges, but these are slowly dissipating while building an enormous market hungry for technology.

The need to find practical solutions to local needs, including an attractive price point, has also been embraced by Huawei as a challenge to develop products that are relevant and affordable. With Africa’s middle class growing, an exciting opportunity exists to walk the journey with users who see the benefits of technology and will be able and willing to upgrade as their needs grow.

Huawei is therefore taking a long term and holistic view on the potential and future of wearable technology. This is driven by the company philosophy as well as realisation that the benefits will be realised over the long haul.

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Millennials turning 40: NOW will you stop targeting them?

It’s one of the most overused terms in youth marketing, and probably the most inaccurate, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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One of the most irritating buzzwords embraced by marketers in recent years is the term “millennial”. Most are clueless about its true meaning, and use it as a supposedly cool synonym for “young adults”. The flaw in this targeting – and the word “flaw” here is like calling the Grand Canyon a trench – is that it utterly ignores the meaning of the term. “Millennials” are formally defined as anyone born from 1980 to 2000, meaning they have typically come of age after the dawn of the millennium, or during the 21st century.

Think about that for a moment. Next year, the millennial will be formally defined as anyone aged from 20 to 40. So here you have an entire advertising, marketing and public relations industry hanging onto a cool definition, while in effect arguing that 40-year-olds are youths who want the same thing as newly-minted university graduates or job entrants.

When the communications industry discovers just how embarrassing its glib use of the term really is, it will no doubt pivot – millennial-speak for “changing your business model when it proves to be a disaster, but you still appear to be cool” – to the next big thing in generational theory.

That next big thing is currently Generation Z, or people born after the turn of the century. It’s very convenient to lump them all together and claim they have a different set of values and expectations to those who went before. Allegedly, they are engaged in a quest for experience, compared to millennials – the 19-year-olds and 39-olds alike – supposedly all on a quest for relevance.

In reality, all are part of Generation #, latching onto the latest hashtag trend that sweeps social media, desperate to go viral if they are producers of social content, desperate to have caught onto the trend before their peers.

The irony is that marketers’ quest for cutting edge target markets is, in reality, a hangover from the days when there was no such thing as generational theory, and marketing was all about clearly defined target markets. In the era of big data and mass personalization, that idea seems rather quaint.

Indeed, according to Grant Lapping, managing director of DataCore Media, it no longer matters who brands think their target market is.

“The reason for this is simple: with the technology and data digital marketers have access to today, we no longer need to limit our potential target audience to a set of personas or segments derived through customer research. While this type of customer segmentation was – and remains – important for engagements across traditional above-the-line engagements in mass media, digital marketing gives us the tools we need to target customers on a far more granular and personalised level.

“Where customer research gives us an indication of who the audience is, data can tell us exactly what they want and how they may behave.”

Netflix, he points out, is an example of a company that is changing its industry by avoiding audience segmentation, once the holy grail of entertainment.

In other words, it understands that 20-year-olds and 40-year-olds are very different – but so is everyone in between.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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Robots coming to IFA

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Robotics is no longer about mechanical humanoids, but rather becoming an interface between man and machine. That is a key message being delivered at next month’s IFA consumer electronics expo in Berlin. An entire hall will be devoted to IFA Next, which will not only offer a look into the future, but also show what form it will take.

The concepts are as varied as the exhibitors themselves. However, there are similarities in the various products, some more human than others, in the fascinating ways in which they establish a link between fun, learning and programming. In many cases, they are aimed at children and young people.

The following will be among the exhibitors making Hall 26 a must-visit:

Leju Robotics (Stand 115) from China is featuring what we all imagine a robot to be. The bipedal Aelos 1s can walk, dance and play football. And in carrying out all these actions it responds to spoken commands. But it also challenges young researchers to apply their creativity in programming it and teaching it new actions. And conversely, it also imparts scholastic knowledge.

Cubroid (Stand 231, KIRIA) from Korea starts off by promoting an independent approach to the way it deals with tasks. Multi-functional cubes, glowing as they play music, or equipped with a tiny rotating motor, join together like Lego pieces. Configuration and programming are thus combined, providing a basic idea of what constitutes artificial intelligence.

Spain is represented by Ebotics (Stand 218). This company is presenting an entire portfolio of building components, including the “Mint” educational program. The modular system explains about modern construction, programming and the entire field of robotics.

Elematec Corporation (Stand 208) from Japan is presenting the two-armed SCARA, which is not intended to deal with any tasks, but in particular to assist people with their work.

Everybot (Stand 231, KIRIA) from Japan approaches the concept of robotics by introducing an autonomous floor-cleaning machine, similar to a robot vacuum cleaner.

And Segway (Stand 222) is using a number of products to explain the modern approach to battery-powered locomotion.

IFA will take place at the Berlin Exhibition Grounds (ExpoCenter City) from 6 to 11 September 2019. For more information, visit www.ifa-berlin.com

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