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#Expansion: The Apple Watch – Fashion Statement or High Tech Gadget?

Apple CEO Tim Cook summed up the problem during a conversation with sales staff at a London Apple Store: “We’ve never sold anything as a company that people could try on before.”

With the expected launch this week of the Apple Watch, the company’s  first new product in five years, Apple will be stepping into new territory.

To conquer the marketplace, the watch will have to appeal not only as a gadget but as a fashion statement, a fact tacitly acknowledged by Apple’s decision to launch its advertising campaign with a 12-page insert in the March issue of Vogue.

The company isn’t talking about plans for marketing the Apple Watch in advance of it’s much-touted “Spring Forward” event on Monday 09 March, but it clearly intends to keep a tight grip on initial sales and distribution, leaving many retailers guessing about when — or if — they’ll be able to sell it.

Sources with direct knowledge of the matter said that Best Buy Co Inc, one of the largest sellers of Apple products, may not get the watch at launch time, though the company wouldn’t comment on the situation.

Other large retailers, including Macy’s, Saks 5th Avenue, Bloomingdales and Barney’s said they had no immediate plans to carry the watch. Target and Nordstrom,along with all the major phone carriers, declined to comment on their plans, though a source with knowledge of the situation said Nordstrom has engaged in discussions with Apple.

“Apple is being cautious. There are too many unknowns around how this product will perform,” said Van Baker, research vice-president, technology research firm Gartner Inc.

That might mean restricting initial sales to company stores, where Apple has complete control over the experience and staff can be specially trained to sell the watch, Baker said.

Apple’s Cook seems very aware of the challenge. The Telegraph, which sent a reporter with the CEO to the company’s Covent Garden store , reported that he explained to the staff that selling the watch might require “tweaking the experience in the store.”

In the absence of hard information about what the tweaks might look like, speculation has been intense. The Washington Post last week suggested that Apple might add carpeting and mirrors and change store lighting to enhance the watch-buying experience.

Media outlets and Websites have also posited that the watch will be offered at special pop-up stores installed at luxury retailers such as Selfridges in London and Colette in Paris.

Apple hosted a private event at Colette last September, at which guests were able to try on the watch, but a spokesman for Colette declined to comment on whether the store would carry it.

Until now, wearable gadgets have not been big sellers for technology companies. Rival products such as Samsung’s Gear watches have sold poorly.

Apple hopes to change that, but it is still a big if whether the watch will appeal to buyers seeking a fashion accessory, especially if it needs to be upgraded every few years like Apple’s phones, tablets and computers.

“It could do wonders for the watch market if it means people might wear watches again, but realistically, there are a lot of doubts,” said Eric Wilson, fashion news director of InStyle.

Fashion customers are more sceptical than anyone, so Apple has picked a tough crowd.”

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#SilverTsunami: How the ‘Internet of Things’ will change the lives of the elderly

 

We are facing the “silver tsunami” of an ageing society that within a few years will see for the first time, more people over the age of 65 living on this planet than those under 5 years of age.

Apart from the increased burden of chronic diseases that accompanies old age, the biggest impact of an increasingly ageing population will be felt in the numbers of people with dementia, and in particular Alzheimer’s Disease.

In Europe, around 7% of the population over 65 have dementia.  This rises dramatically with age and nearly 50% of women and 30% of men over the age of 90 will suffer from the condition.

For many of us, there is the desire to “age in place”, that is to remain in our homes and stay as active and independent for as long as possible.  One possible way of achieving this is to use technological assistance, and in particular use connected smart devices that are collectively called the “Internet of Things” that are rapidly becoming a reality in the home.

The Internet of Things can communicate with each other and with software running in the cloud. These devices can act as sensors, monitoring what is happening in the environment and, in particular, with elderly people themselves.

They can also process information and take actions, such as controlling heating and air conditioning, locking doors and windows and reminding people to take medications or encourage them to be active, or simply go for a walk.

Data collected through the Internet of Things in the home can be used to provide an overall assessment of “observations of daily living”. These observations form a pattern of everyday life from which any deviations can create triggers of that change to alert those living in the home, their family or their health carers.

Despite all of the possibilities of these devices helping the elderly to stay independent and active, there are some significant obstacles that need to be overcome before their full potential becomes a reality.

The first is acceptance by the elderly themselves. They may see remote monitoring devices as an intrusion on their privacy. They may also see any outward signs of using this technology as a public symbol of their age and frailty and so avoid their use for that reason.

They may be concerned about not being able to use the technology properly, in particular triggering false alarms.

Finally, the devices may not be considered affordable, or at least, too much of a luxury to spend money on.

Some of these obstacles can be addressed by the design of the devices themselves.

A US company, Live!y has created a smartwatch, not dissimilar to one from Apple or Samsung, that provides alerts and reminders and also can be used to summon help and communicate with a monitoring service. It also measures activity by counting steps, and usefully, tells the time.

The watch acts in concert with a range of sensors that monitor medication use, access of the fridge and movement in various rooms. The watch can also detect falls and automatically call for help.

By making the device seem like an everyday watch, it reduces at least some of the potential barriers to the elderly in its use.

Telehealth is another field of care of people in the home that utilises connected smart devices.

Not only are we facing a rapidly increasing aged population, but a major proportion of that population have one or more chronic conditions.

By using remote monitoring of weight, blood pressure, pulse and ECG, problems can be detected without a visit to a GP and more importantly, avoiding the hospital.

The smart devices can sense, make decisions locally, and act on that information. Ultimately, if this is to be of any use, the directions originating from these devices need to be followed by those that the technologies are caring for.

This is still the most challenging aspect of the entire process. Reminding someone that they have failed to take their medication may be of no use if that person has decided simply that they don’t want to take it.

What the health profession can do about the elderly not taking medications as they are intended is a still a major problem and having reminders is not the entire solution.

Because a solution does not work for everyone is not a reason for not adopting it for those that it will help.

Before we see widespread adoption of the Internet of Things in the home however, we will need to see cheaper, more attractive, affordable, and useful devices that integrate with smartphones and computers and the apps that are running on them.

The best chance for this happening are the initiatives from Apple and Google.

Although Apple’s HomeKit and Google’s Brillo are aimed at everyone’s homes, their popularity may see the next generation of the elderly already prepared for their help in staying independent and active for longer.