The Travel Industry Dives into Wearable Tech at CES 2017

Farrha Khan Posted January 4th, 2017 by
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The new year is here, and with it comes CES 2017. The Las Vegas-based expo holds the reputation of being the place to see what the future of tech might look like. As expected, hundreds of different wearables, home automation and IoT products, eye-popping smart TVs, and drones of every type and shape have taken over the expo. This year, we’ll also be seeing more of virtual and augmented reality technology along with a number of futuristic cars on display.

But something that we at Centercode like to keep an eye out for is traditionally non-tech companies from industries you wouldn’t necessarily think of moving into the technology space with a new product announcement at CES.

Last year’s CES saw makeup company L’Oreal unveil a smart patch that tracks harmful UV rays, indicating when you should start moving out of the sun. This year, to start the show off with a bang, cruise company Carnival has unveiled an NFC and Bluetooth-enabled smart wearable for cruise-goers. Carnival says its wearable, called Ocean Medallion, will allow guests to open their cabin doors, pay for drinks, food, and merchandise, and be connected to an app from where you can personalize your vacation and preferences. And just like other wearable makers, Carnival will have accessories for sale to allow its guests to customize their Medallion, allowing you to wear it on your wrist or around your neck.

It’s exciting to see new technologies from traditionally non-tech industries and the types of solutions and enhanced experiences these new technologies can create. Though we’ve seen the travel industry experiment with smartband technology with limited capabilities before (select Royal Caribbean cruises offer an RFID-enabled smartband, as does Disney World Parks with its MagicBand at its Orlando-based parks), Carnival’s Ocean Medallion takes it to the next step and promises a more invisible and seamless travel experience. For example, you don’t actually need to tap the little disc to your room’s door as you would an RFID smartband to open it. You can simply walk up to your door with the Medallion still in your pocket, and your room should unlock by itself — without needing to pause, tap, and then enter.

There are certain challenges these traditionally non-tech companies face, however, when unveiling a new tech product at a show like CES. There’s usually a lot of hype when such a company moves into the tech world with a new product announcement at CES. But like for any product release, the hype can easily turn into negative news as the product gets closer to release, or even after release. From delays to products not living up to the hype once they’re launched, we’ve previously taken a closer look at some of these nightmare scenarios and what can be done to prepare your product for a post-CES launch.

What makes it particularly risky and difficult for a non-tech company like Carnival entering the tech industry is that, while they’re used to mastering the complicated logistics of creating a great vacation experience, they’re new to understanding the technical details of wearable design and manufacturing. They are tasked with essentially creating a new user experience for this product to be successful, and they’ll need to do it in a brand new industry (IoT), and that’s no mean feat.

In Carnival’s case, with the Ocean Medallion essentially replacing keys, wallets, and tickets, they’ll be dealing with the need for enhanced security measures, and while the company says the small discs won’t hold any personal information, it will need to hold some details connected to you and your credit card. They will also need to have measures in place for customers who lose their Ocean Medallions to be able to “disconnect” their account from the disc.

For new products entering a new market, customer validation is essential for its success. If Carnival implements a robust customer validation program before launch, they will not only be able to test if each feature and function works, but if the wearable is user-friendly and their customers are using it the way they had intended it to be used. This insight can be invaluable when releasing a new product in a new market, as it’ll help determine if Carnival’s hoped-for seamless experience doesn’t become cumbersome instead, and the Ocean Medallion’s launch meets the hype and expectations set during CES 2017.

We’ll continue keeping a keen eye on the show floor over the next few days to see what other exciting tech and trends emerge. If you’re attending CES 2017 and would like to discuss your customer validation program, let us know by clicking the button below or emailing us at events@centercode.com. We’d love to meet you!

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