Lessons from building the most intimate travel accessory yet

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My news feed has long been filled with lists of the hottest new gadgets. As a self-proclaimed geek who subscribes to the leading tech news sites that’s unsurprising. At Expedia we’ve been talking about wearables for the last few years, and we’ve been predicting the conversation would shift from what tech devices you’re carrying to what devices you’re wearing. It’s a minor change, but an important one–particularly for travel.

We’ve built a couple of applications for these devices so we have had an opportunity to talk to a number of consumers about developments in this space. Much of the feedback we have received revolves around three core themes:

1. People want instantaneous access to the internet

This is the one core reason for supporting wearables. Why? Because the Internet represents access to virtually all human knowledge. If information is power, then wearables represent incredible access to this power. If you can harness that and make it available the moment a user needs it then we believe consumers–en masse–will want these devices.

We also believe companies will relentlessly invest in these devices to become the access point for this demand. The key in doing this successfully is usability. For many of these devices there are limited input modes and sometimes no HTML to build around. Every new device seems subtly more usable. We believe a breakthrough will only be a function of time.

2. Wearables represent a new level of intimacy

You want to know my how many steps I take? My body temperature? Yes, I’m used to sharing. But now wearables can know my heart rate paired with my schedule? This information is incredibly more intimate than many of the emails I write. If an app wants to capture that content it needs to give me something very valuable in return. And it’s not always obvious what that could be.

Wearables are capable of capturing, digesting, and making recommendations based on some very sensitive information. If I am wearing a device with these capabilities there will be a new bar for content relevancy–and it’s a higher bar than has ever existed.

3. New winners and losers will emerge

Not every company will be able to develop a value proposition to gain the appropriate permissions to be able to access these devices effectively. Many Internet companies will struggle as they think about how they transition from being a traditional website (an active “pull” service), to an active push service. Consumers are skeptical that many companies will act thoughtfully and respectfully.

A couple weeks ago, Expedia was selected as one of the small group of applications Apple demoed for their upcoming Apple Watch. We are beyond excited to be part of this small group.

Travel is inherently filled with a number of use cases that could be better solved through a wearable device. The ability to put something on your wrist instead of having to carry it in your hand means one less thing you are apt to mistakenly leave behind in an airport, hotel shuttle, or on a sightseeing tour. People want the ability to easily manage their travel details from one app. It’s part of the reason our itineraries page within the Expedia App sees over a million views a week. Having access to this kind of contextual data while you are on the go is an incredibly compelling concept.

As we build our product roadmaps at Expedia we are working to understand how to better manage things like airport security, hotel check-in, and proof of payment for excursions right from your wrist. Many companies are actively exploring this space and it’s an area where we expect to see more. I personally love the idea of the Apple Watch and think it will be a big hit, but I know it will be the first of many devices of this type. We’re excited to see what shapes and sizes of technology people will wear–and travel with–next.

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Chief Product Officer for Expedia Worldwide

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