The Present and Future of Wearable Tech in Business Travel

It's hard to go more than a minute without seeing someone checking something on their smart phone, tablet, and most recently, wearable device. The abundance of this ever-present technology has led to permanent changes in the way we shop, communicate, find information, and of course, travel. But what's next for wearable electronics in business travel?

Wearable electronics are already the next big thing in the evolution of mobile technology and, in some cases, a literal extension of it. It’s already changing the way travelers make it through a trip. Perhaps the most well-known iteration of wearable tech today is the smart watch. Apple™ and Google™ are both in the game with the Apple Watch and Android Wear, and a host of designers have packaged up the software and branded it for their loyal customers. For business travelers, however, the smart watch can be more than just a fashion statement. Here are some interesting examples of how wearable tech will play a role in business travel.

Tap to unlock

For instance, the Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide offers an app for the Apple Watch that eliminates the need for a physical room key. With the SPG app, users can not only get all the details they need about their stay, and check in and out of their room—all on their smart watch—but they're now also able to unlock their hotel room door with a simple tap of their wrist.

Speak like a local

The International Hotels Group has created a language learning and translations app to the Apple Watch called IHG Translator app. Travelers can translate common phrases into 13 languages while on-the-go, as well as access quizzes and an offline dictionary to keep improving their linguistic skills.

Navigate the unfamiliar

In addition to helping travelers communicate in new places, other apps can help travelers get where they need to go. Citymapper gives travelers the fastest route to their destination, whether by subway, bus, rail, bike sharing, or Uber™ right on their wrist. The app also displays arrival times for the next bus or train alongside the user's step-by-step instructions. Perhaps the best part: a gentle vibration is delivered to the wrist when travelers reach their intended stop, allowing them to never miss a beat.

Our take on wearable tech

Asked about wearable electronics, VP Digital Traveler at American Express Global Business Travel, Evan Konwiser, said, "The wearable device at this stage, from my perspective, is a second screen that's more convenient, but it doesn't deliver separate functionality." Though there is some material value to this added layer of connectivity, particularly for today's business travelers. "There's a lot of value to getting your alerts on your wrist. It's very convenient, especially for people that are getting a lot of alerts and are on the go a lot."

But is there a revolution waiting in the wings with today's wearables for business travelers? Not yet, at least, says Konwiser. "I don't see a huge use case with today's wearable tech, any kind of fundamental shift for business travel tech. For now, I see it as a nice, extra half-channel with which to reach people."

Wearable electronics, especially within the corporate travel space are still in relative infancy. For now, efficiency and convenience is the name of the game for those business travelers sporting wearables. But, as we have seen in recent years, life-altering advances in digital technology can come rapidly, from any company at any time. With the market expected to reach $34B by 2020, don’t discount the role wearables will play in your future travels.