Apple Watch and the Internet of People

Written by on April 14, 2015 in Opinion with 0 Comments

communicationEven though we would certainly question some of the portrayals of wearable technology, there is no doubt that it will quickly become deeply entwined in our lives. Analysts believe that Apple will ship 2.3 million watches in the next few weeks, 16 million by the end of September and 40 million by the end of September 2016.

These are impressive figures – and based on analysts looking at what components Apple is already ordering.

The question, though, is that Apple (Samsung, Google or anyone else) does not produce a watch simply to tell the time. The vision is awesome and centred – for the moment – around health. The company has teamed up with IBM to offer advanced analytics tools (based on the Jeopardy playing Watson machine) that will allow healthcare professionals to monitor patients.

It will also allow customers to predict when they are getting ill.

And that is where the problems will arise. The growth of the internet brought with it millions of people conducting self diagnosis and either rushing to their doctor to demand the solution that the infallible web said they needed (which generally they didn’t) or rushing to buy cheap and flawed drugs from offshore sources. Let us hope that this inevitable ‘Internet of People’ (IoP) – which is where wearables will lead us – does not mean that mankind finally succumbs to what science fiction has been foretelling for decades – that we are controlled by the machine. It is possible that, with moment by moment monitoring, the merest sneeze that pushes your heart rate up for a while, will make you rest unnecessarily. Or eat the healthiest of food, or end up living on their doctor’s doorstep. Eating a little dirt as a kid is the way to a robust immune system.

Philosophical arguments aside, these advances will radically change how we live. They will create entirely new arenas in which companies operate and therefore produce completely new challenges. A decade ago, we would have laughed at the idea of Apple becoming a healthcare company. Or Google. Or that both would get into the car business.

What is still in some doubt is where telecoms operators sit in these new arenas. Of course, at a basic level, they are the glue, the connectivity that binds it all together. But they are not the sexy bit. Thus the endless cost cutting, efficiency drives and the move towards virtualisation to stay in the game.

The clever ones will go beyond this, and either provide value through the knowledge and insight that can come from their networks and systems – if privacy laws allow – or by finding a niche that is valuable. This could be as ‘privacy champion,’ a role that Orange is carving out for itself, or as provider of a ‘dashboard’ that allows customers to manage their lives more effectively. Or trusted partner in the digital world.

They can start by implementing the real-time capabilities that are needed to respond to customers’ needs – and many are. They can also upgrade their customer service platforms and culture to be ready for a whole new way of supporting their customers. And many are not.

Whatever the next few years bring, it is now clear that it will come fast and the only way to address the threats and opportunities of these new arenas is through carefully considered partnerships.

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About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .

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