The Real Deal with Wearables, Millennials & Consumers ‘Caught in the Act’


Many years ago when being quizzed as to whether ‘Web Services’ were the next big thing, Larry Ellison commented “I’ve spent too much time in Italy to know that you shouldn’t ignore fashion”.  In tech, we like nothing better than a new trend – and we all know that fashion matters, so we get on board with it. As an industry we’ve proven to be masters at hyping new trends, setting unrealistically high expectations for them and then, when dust settles, sometimes making money.

So what are the big tech trends for 2015?  Here’s my take…


Apple fanatics worldwide expect wearables will go mainstream following the emergence of iWatch, but I’m not so sure. Let’s face it, nobody under 35 wears a watch anymore – they rely on their smartphones for everything. A lot of wearables will fail … with the guys wearing their Bluetooth ear piece all day propping up the market.   Now, that said, not all wearable technology will end in abject failure. Standalone, niche wearables that shake up industries for the better – such as FitBits or Jawbones that monitor vitals or health activity – will continue to flourish and be incorporated into sports clothing, shoes and equipment.

Consumers “Caught In The ‘Act’

Mobile devices are a driving force of disruption in almost every industry. Businesses that adapt and take their services onto the mobile device can create a direct relationship with the consumer.   This creates a nirvana moment for marketers – they have the potential to intercept consumers “in the act” and direct their attention to relevant products and services.   Think about the retailer who is savvy about the consumer location in the store, or the sports clothing company who understand exercise routines and state of health of their customers – it’s a gold mine!  But consumers are fickle and impatient.  Many companies have been working on this for years, but I expect it will become more widely adopted.  That means vast streams of data will need to be processed in real time … driving a massive increase in the adoption of technologies such as in-memory databases and flash storage.

It’s About The Software, Stupid

In the last decade or so, most companies have quit the business of writing software. IT departments have become experts at managing data center infrastructure and implementing ERP systems.   In the next decade, almost every industry will be re-defined by software – and much of that software being surfaced on mobile devices – on smartphones and tablets for sure, but also in cars, aircraft engines, running shoes and human beings!  Think about Tesla – an electric car, right? Yes, but more than that, it’s a software-defined car.  Tesla has done to the driving experience what Apple did to the cellular phone experience – your car is now a software platform to innovate on top of.   Companies that don’t innovate in this way won’t last long. This trend also hits close to home – I’m not excusing the data center infrastructure (that EMC plays in) from this.  Storage arrays, servers, networks and entire data centers will be run and managed by smart software in the future.

Agile Software Development + Millennials = New IT

In the next decade business transformation will be driven by new, differentiated, software running on mobile devices.  But it won’t be written the way it was 20 years ago.  At school most of us forty-something’s learned that making changes late in the software development lifecycle was expensive.  So we had to lock in requirements early, up front and fight change.  Change was bad.  So many of us have spent our careers working on projects that lasted years and ultimately delivered the wrong thing – the magic of ‘waterfall’ development.

If business transformation is to happen it will be driven by the business – often with “IT” (the guys writing the software) embedded in the business.   Development will be iterative, employing agile techniques – prioritizing work and then re-prioritizing every couple of weeks based on a tight feedback loop with the business. We’re talking here about a new model for IT, and one that provides almost instant gratification – a perfect fit for the millennial generation coming into the workplace.  2015 could represent the beginning of the decentralization of IT – IT operations staying centralized, but software development heading off into the respective business units.

Lecture This

2015 will be the dawn of a new era in education. We’ll see the beginning of the end of lectures.  Yes, as a form of learning, the professorial lecture is dead.  Trials at leading universities have shown that the average student pays attention for about 7 minutes in a 40 minute lecture.  If the lecture is 60 minutes the attention span actually drops!  At colleges where lectures have moved online exam re-take rates have tumbled from almost 50% to single digits.  And, that’s not the only good news, moving content online gives educational content global reach.  Imagine a world where everyone has access to the same materials our Ivy League schools teach!  Next time your kids are on Khan Academy, pay attention – you are seeing the future of education at work.

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19 thoughts on “The Real Deal with Wearables, Millennials & Consumers ‘Caught in the Act’

  1. MOOCs are a great example of online learning. If your attention drops in a live lecture you \”get out of sync\” for the rest of it because you probably missed something important. With an online lecture you can just rewind back to where you ran into difficulties and try again.

      • Jeremy, you are spot-on. I am a 50 something technologist and recently added a BA in Organizational Leadership to my education through an all-online program. On-line studies, if done correctly, fit today\’s lifestyle of busy adults while maintaining the student-to-instructor & student-to-student interaction necessary to keep learning both effective and interesting.

      • On line learning enables me to schedule the session when I am at my peak – most able to focus – whatever time of day or night that happens to be. If a topic is introduced that I don\’t understand, I pause the training and research the material before continuing. No wasted time. I\’ve also found that listening multiple times to new technical enables better retention long term.

  2. +1 on the Future of Learning! In training newly hired support technicians for the Isilon scale-out NAS product, we\’re switching our ILTs to SPOCs (like a MOOC, but a Small Private Online Course). This scales beautifully when EMC has hired two technicians in Cairo, four in Bangalore, six in Shanghai, and four in Minnesota. It never made sense financially to fly them to one location for training. Now they can each get the same training, in their own time zone, minus travel expenses. Chunky is the new skinny, and video is the new document.

  3. Grrrreat blog post Jeremy. A very compelling read for all to consider. \’So much thought -provoking content in this blog – for me, anyway – that I had to share it forward to all of my colleagues. Funny, you even mention the Khan Academy, a resource I’ve used, quite effectively I might add, with my son and daughter maaaany times. We are indeed amidst a new epoch, and the proverbial bar continues to be raised for us all … our youth are being exposed to it all, daily. \’Just got dinged on my smart watch … back to work I go — cheers!

  4. I agree no one under 35 wears a watch any more but I see that trend changing because of tech like the Apple Watch (not iWatch). The android watches out now are not fashion statements or haven\’t been yet. They are heading that way and since they will do all of those things you said people will wear something for, i.g. health monitoring, I think that you will see a trend that every generation will be wearing one. I never thought I\’d want one, but I said the same thing about smart phones and changed my mind. If you talk to people that wear these watches you hear nothing but \”I don\’t know how I did it before\” just like you do with the smart phones. The people I\’ve met, mostly under 35 because they are the early adopters right now, love them. I\’ll give it a try when they come out and we will see but I think you will be surprised.

    You are spot on on the agile development. You see it now a great deal in gaming for the PC. Most software has a cycle, gaming software is moving away from cycle and will patch new features weekly. Companies in the past would spend millions of dollars to produce a game to sell to the public. Now the trend is to get a game to the least playable it could be and then sell \”beta\” accounts. Use feed back from the public and change the game over time selling micro transactions in the middle. Maybe the game never comes out of beta so that they can explain away the bugs but even if it does the consumers get accustom to the software changing overnight. There are good and bad sides to this. Good side is that you able to make changes fast, that side should be adopted. If we have a platform that can be developed over the week to make specific changes for bug fixes or feature enhancements then we know we can stick with trends and move with the flow of the industry. This isn\’t an easy feat and comes with some downside because when moving that fast you can make mistakes. For professional software it will have to be vetted more but it\’s a trend that is coming.

    The lecture part I agree 100% and lots of Ivy league schools have their classes online now. You can get classes from Harvard, Yale and MIT. Took an iPhone dev class from Harvard online. Was really interesting.

  5. Your raising this subject is important not only for external learning but also for internal learning and collaboration. The subject is one that ought to be discussed thoughout EMC and may lead to experiments with the way we learn and execute (maybe it\’s a combination of 15 minute lectures and mooc\’s) and share experiences. Thanks

  6. Great article Jeremy!

    Love your thoughts around wearables – I just got a Garmin Vivosmart, and it\’s been great to keep me active – but the buzzing from the phone calls on my wrist doesn\’t really add much value. I am excited to see how the Apple Watch will change things, I truly expect it to hit a home run. Apple seems to have thought a lot of things through and I can\’t count the number of times I take my phone out of my pocket to check the time, or where my next meeting is… so I\’m excited to see how that pans out.

    Also, I can\’t say enough about agile development. I was the product owner for the agile team that built out EMC IT\’s service catalog and support site – and I can say, if we didn\’t do that in an agile manger, we would have had a very different outcome. Lately I\’ve had the pleasure of working more with HR and Global Business Services on the Welcoming initiative (onboarding). It\’s been fantastic to get out of IT and work hand in hand with the business. Looking forward to more, it\’s truly the way to work.

  7. Great post. You did a really nice job of relating the EMC Big Data, Agile Development, and Cloud messaging down to the consumer technologies/innovations. These trends you listed above are what EMC\’s customer\’s customers care about. Understanding those relationships are the keys to EMC being successful in the future.

  8. Jeremy, I have two daughters aged 5, and when I observe them dealing with technology and the speed how they adapt to new and changing functionality I cannot but agree that the classic front-facing teaching style will at best brake, at worst break their enthusiasm for learning new things. However, just because the Prussian way of teaching skills is to be retired, this does not mean that online learning is the cure to all illnesses. In my career, I found the best learning experiences those to be where I was a member of a group of students that jointly established a theory, discovered facts and then decided to hold or abandon that theory. Therefore I do believe the front-facing teacher will not go away, but his prime responsibility will shift from transporter / presenter of facts to a moderator / coach in helping learners to draw conclusions from facts presented to them by technology. And to be very honest: Isn\’t this exactly the same evolution we see in our job as people managers? Back in the 80ies, a people manager\’s prime responsibility was to disseminate information from top to bottom and aggregate response from bottom to top. The availability (and acceptance) of personal information technology has made this function obsolete, and whoever still holds team meetings only to distribute news that is readily accessible on an Intranet page or an e-Mail distribution list should not be allowed to waste employee\’s time any longer. The tricky part remains, and this is the real value of a people manager: Assist employees in interpreting facts brought to them by electronic channels and help them make the best out of it.

  9. I agree on much of what you have said. It’s a great article. First and foremost, you are correct. “Development will be iterative” and us as PM’s, sales, technical people all must adapt. However, I think we need to differentiate “agile” from “fast.” At the start of most projects, most of the time no one knows what they want or worse, different divisions want different things. As the vendor; we are forced to do what should never be done and are forced to live with prior bad decisions. i.e. what’s the right database, what is the right API to use, or what is the right software to purchase. Poor planning still and will always equal poor (or lessor) performance. You can still be “flexible” in the context of not choosing a technology that locks you into the bad. I think ActiveX would be a great example. The best run businesses know where they have been, proactive in where they are at, and have a vision for what’s ahead. Can software help, absolutely! It sucks dropping data into Excel, and unfortunately most of us still have to do this. In far too many cases the data to make proactive decisions simply is not there. We know this leads to bad things. The proverbial, blind leading the blind. (I keep going back to the Three Mile Island disaster)
    So while you can do agile, you still need to begin with the end in mind. No one wants a product that didn’t use the right tool, or have the right features due to lack of proper planning.

  10. \”It’s About The Software, Stupid\”

    Great read, Jeremy, except that sub-head.

    \”It\’s about the (insert noun here), stupid\” really bothers me. Every time I read it, I get the feeling that the writer is writing to me. Wrong. I\’m not stupid.

    That phrase became popular after presidential candidate Bill Clinton\’s campaign manager posted \”the economy, stupid\” at his campaign headquarters. It wasn\’t directed it people outside the campaign who were considered stupid. It was an internal reminder to focus on the economy as an issue.

    Sorry for venting on a big pet peeve of mine.

  11. The Fitbits are kind of a pain, because you have to remember to set them on and off for each activity and then upload the info. They need to work on just tracking for you without your input. At least that how it was a year ago, maybe they\’ve improved that part and not are automated? Just my 2 cents. Thanks for the great article. I enjoyed reading it. Cheers!

  12. Stefan, this is so true and great food for thought, regarding the fact that the human interactive element is still important, and the idea of the lecturer/rteacher becoming the moderatorr/coach validates the importance of a facilitative approach to learning. Many schools have implemented with approach while using Khan Academy or similar online learning events. Many of our current ILTs also leverage student groups learing thorugh active case study work, in which there is less lecture and more interaction and problem-solving, faciliatated by an instructor. Now is it a matter of translating that to conduct online learning with \”virtual teams\” in a global setting. It is an exciting time and well worth the investment in time, human energy, and tools to get it done right!

  13. The processing and delivery of data is the key. The wearable simplifies complex data be it via organ monitoring, exercise optimization or receiving and simplifying notifications from other devices. The smart phone/tablet allows for instant communication, geo-based services and the IT equivalent of a swiss army knife. Even the viewing of online lectures allow control to be passed to the student in terms of how the information is viewed and processed.
    It is all about the software but more pointedly, it is more about the software\’s ability to help make intelligent decisions based on an effective delivery of the required data. This can be seen via software defined instructions, real time analytics and even SaaS tools like SFDC.
    The hardware is merely the delivery mechanism. The software is the intelligence.

  14. With Harvard Business School taking their courses online for the entire world for free, this video could not have come at a better time, predicting the future.

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