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OK wearables, disrupt banking

A recent report from Credit Suisse predicts that wearable technologies could be a USD 3-5 billion market over the next three years, ten times what it is today. As the market for these new technologies explodes, it will set off user expectations for an instantaneous seamless transition of everyday digital activities - banking included - to these new devices.

Wearable technologies will disrupt a banking industry still racing to keep pace with relentless innovation in the smartphone space. Though the smartwatch really did not take off this year, that segment is expected to witness some vanguard developments next year.

But all eyes are on the scheduled Google Glass launch in 2014, which would represent the first true mobile hardware innovation since the iPhone and the iPad. Banks will need to build the capabilities to engage with a new breed of customer who expects to 'Ok, Glass' his banking transactions. This at a time when banks that have integrated voice recognition capabilities into their mobile banking applications are still in the minority.

But many banks and payment providers have already kickstarted application development around the Google Glass phenomenon. Intuit has adapted its mobile card reader application for Google Glass. Spanish Bank Banco Sabadell's Glass app allows users to transact via voice commands, even as work on a check deposit app is underway. Ukrainian PrivatBank's Glass app allows fund transfers and bill payments by clicking pictures. In New Zealand, Westpac has already ported its balance update app to the smartwatch and is working on extending the app's functionality.

Banks will need to innovate their presence into the wearables segment in order to engage with their customers as well as protect at least their payments turf to begin with. The biggest challenge will be to stay abreast of the immense scope of possibilities in wearables. Sony has already patented a SmartWig concept that as of today is not backed by commercial intent. But who knows about the future? Clearly, 2014 will herald only the beginning of the wearables disruption and its limitless possibilities.


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