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Wearable Computers: Where Do Advertisers Fit In?

While the promise of hover boards or personal jet-packs remain unfulfilled, the hope of living in a cyber-punk future is not completely gone, thanks to serious leaps forward in the wearable computer market. This year’s CES and SXSW were full of wearable tech devices; some were re-treads but a few have some immediate real-world uses, like the football helmet that measures impact data to keep players safer from concussion injuries.

Not many of us are going to be walking around wearing a wired football helmet to see how much it hurts to get hit by Ray Lewis, but it does make for some interesting niche advertising, “It appears you just got hit really hard. Maybe your parents should take you to Memorial Hospital for a concussion screening.”

With wearable computers now in the tangible future - especially with advances in battery technology - advertisers and marketers had better start thinking how to connect to these devices and the people wearing them before the wearable circuit culture defines itself as an ad-free space.

Here’s a quick look at some of the most popular wearable devices most likely to succeed in the marketplace, and how advertisers might find a place in them:

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Google Glass

Google Glass is the current gold standard of wearable circuitry, since it can shoot high-quality video and augment reality with a heads-up display. Obviously, it’s awesome, and everybody wants one, which is why Google’s NDA for developers is so strict.

For advertisers, a device like this is a potential dream-come-true, as long as Google finds a way to free marketers to use the technology and data available to them without upsetting users with clutter. A Google Glass user could be served a trailer for a film as she walks by the movie theater, or a peek of the catch of the day at his favorite restaurant. Some see Google Glass as the next huge leap in advertising, and they could be right -people are already making their own Google Glass hacks using safety goggles and an iPod Touch.

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A watch with a non-backlit e-ink screen, Pebble is like a Kindle for your wrist. It’s not a computer by itself; it merely syncs with your smart phone, allowing you to check your wrist instead of pulling out your phone for simple functions like receiving a text message or scheduled reminder.

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For advertisers, any sort of notification that you can send to a phone - an SMS message, a tweet or an email - could be served up to a user’s Pebble screen. If it’s a sunny day in Florida, send your Pebble user a reminder that the water park is open; if it’s cold in Seattle, let them know where the best deal on coffee is.

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Fitbit Flex

The Fitbit Flex is a wired version of the Live Strong bracelet - tracking users’ activity, steps taken, calories burned, hours slept, and all sorts of data gleaned from the body in motion and at rest. It syncs to a phone.

A device like this provides tons of relevant data to potential advertisers: Not sleeping well? Try this sleeping pill. Not burning many calories? How about a weight loss program. Exercising all the time? You need new shoes. Speaking of shoes – there's also Google's talking Adidas shoe experiment that could also find room in this space.

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Although it feels like many people already wear their iPhones, Apple is a bit behind the curve on the wearable computer game, but don’t expect that to last long as wearable devices will eventually replace the iPhone. There’s plenty of chatter out there about an iWatch, which will probably be like a Pebble with rounded corners, and an iShoe, which is hilarious. Imagine receiving this text: “It appears you have stepped in something. Hopefully, it’s gum.”

Like any Apple product, these wearable devices will have scores of marketing opportunities, as long as you play by Apple’s rules. An advertiser might not be able to serve an ad directly to a user, but will be able to serve ads in apps, based on geo-location, weather, and what the user is looking at.

The truth is that wearable devices is just one component of our 5G future. Combine Google Glass, Pebble and your iShoes with technological advances like pervasive networks and smart radio being used under unified global standards and true global wireless networks - and one can see that the mobile device world we live in now will soon be a thing of the past, and so will the current business model.

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