History has a tendency to repeat itself. We can all remember when social media was a fledgling marketing tactic, and companies experimented and tested their way to the maturity of today’s advanced social engagement programs. In my past research on digital transformation and mobile customer experience design, I saw brands traverse the same journey as they did in social – learning from one another, borrowing strategies, and cobbling together programs, campaigns, and internal infrastructures on their way to maturation.

And now, the world of wearables, connected devices, and the Internet of Things (IoT) is at the start of that same journey.

It’s a journey of many roads and moving pieces, with companies struggling to create seamlessly relevant customer experiences (CX) on new channels while still maintaining engagement on their tried-and-true media. It’s a journey that requires a willingness to fail, and fail again, until the right solution is pieced together. It’s a journey that forces industries and competitors to work together, looking to one another for inspiration, as the leaders in this space are all but determined, and innovation can come from the unlikeliest of sources.

I was reminded of this pattern in CX evolution around new technologies when reading a slew of news stories involving disparate industries working in parallel to solve similar problems – yet each unaware of the innovation transpiring next door. In my work, I’m often asked by clients to find similar examples of companies within their industry that have created successful IoT, mobile, social, et. al., programs. What I find most often, though, is that the most creative solutions and experiences depend on specific leaders and teams, regardless of vertical. It is extremely rare for one industry to excel far-and-above another when it comes to adopting a new technology to engage with customers.

This is especially true if an industry is bogged down with additional regulations or bureaucracy (ie. banking and pharmaceuticals), or if it’s funded less than another sector (ie. government and nonprofit).

For example, it was recently reported that the Department of Defense (DoD) is kicking off a new partnership with many tech giants including Apple, Hewlett-Packard, and Boeing, to bring wearable technologies to soldiers in combat. The goal is to create wearable devices, as part of soldiers’ uniforms, to monitor vital signs without restricting range of motion or becoming a distraction during combat. The partnership will likely spend years developing these technologies – technologies, that, already exist in another industry: professional sports.

NFL wearable sensor

Two sensors will be embedded in NFL uniforms, beneath the shoulder pads. [Credit: CIO.com]

This season, NFL players will be wearing sensors beneath their shoulder pads (see photo above) that will track where they are on the field, their speed, distance traveled and acceleration more accurately than ever before. I’ve also written about Reebok’s Checklight over at MobileFOMO – a device that sits under NFL athlete helmets and emits a colored alert light when a significant hit is suffered. Both of these technologies are tested and proven to work under duress. It would serve the DoD well to examine the use of wearables for tracking vitals and location within other relevant industries before blazing an entirely new path (perhaps even the fashion industry). As the adage goes, “there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.”

There are countless other examples where innovation is happening in one industry that, with a little creativity, could be applied to solve another industry’s problems – all with less time in research and development and, therefore, less resources invested. I’ll be chronicling other opportunities for collaboration and cross-vertical learning here at WearableFOMO in the future as I analyze them. In the meantime, I advise strategists to take a look outside of their own company, competitive set, and industry to find the real magic. If history repeats itself, IoT adoption will surely follow suit of its tech predecessors in its evolution.