Wearables in the arts: ready to take centre stage?

‘Smart glasses hold the promise of accelerating the shift towards a truly digital box office’

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The buzz around wearable tech just keeps getting louder. Forecasters estimate we will see adoption at an annual compound rate of 35% over the next five years, with anywhere from 148 million to 200 million units shipped by 2019.

So what does that mean for the arts? A recent study by Carnegie Mellon University in the US looked at how wearables are being used by the creative industries now, and considers how they’re likely to be used in the not-too-distant future.

Many of the predictions gel pretty neatly with the kinds of queries we’re taking each week from arts organisations about the possibilities of wearable tech.

Take smart glasses for example. Google Glass may be currently on hiatus, but in the arts industry smart specs are still generating loads of interest.

>See also: The devil wears hi-tech: wearable computing in the workplace

Glass was used for media and entertainment purposes 54% of the time in field trials, so the arts could well be the place where smart glasses find their most enthusiastic early adopters. 

Smart glasses hold the promise of accelerating the shift towards a truly digital box office. Imagine if you could equip front-of-house staff with smart glasses at multiple points in the foyer to cut CoBO queues and use facial recognition technology, barcodes or QR codes to make checking in really simple? It could be a complete game changer. The first brave theatre team just needs to take the leap.

Look to other sectors and it’s already happening. Virgin Atlantic recently experimented with Google Glass as an alternative to airport check-in desks. It allowed staff to access all the information they needed to about a passenger’s booking, freeing them up to provide more attentive service. The response from customers was overwhelmingly positive.

The next step would be to imagine a CRM app for smart glasses which discreetly displays sophisticated customer insights (e.g. donor status, genre preferences, frequency of attendance) right in front of the front-of-house staff’s eyes. It could spur the development of new techniques for improving service and deepen the relationship with customers.

Glasses aren’t the only wearable format of course. What if you could have real-time ticket sale data, ROI reports and email marketing stats delivered to a screen on your wrist?

Salesforce, the cloud based CRM platform, is already making this possible by making its enterprise software accessible via an app for the Apple Watch. It allows users to access data, request reports by voice, and respond to notifications with a few taps on the wrist.

With more enterprise apps on the horizon for Apple Watch, the idea of using smartwatches to improve the way people work in the arts is intriguing.

Smartphone users are already using cloud apps on their devices to stay on top of emails when they’re out and about, so the transition to doing the same thing on a small wearable device doesn’t seem so farfetched.

Salesforce says that its app “bridges the last mile between insight and action”. Extend that idea to the box office and it’s not hard to imagine a CRM app on your watch could help marketing, Front-of-house and fundraising teams react quickly to notifications and demand signals as they happen in real time.

Notifications could alert a team when something important happens, like a sold-out show or a milestone in a fundraising goal. Access to key stats could enable a faster reaction to data in real time, such as the number of open opportunities in a fundraising pipeline. Access to stats could be far easier with a single swipe or voice command.

Used in tandem with iBeacon technology, businesses could market extra services or products to customers, or ask them for feedback on a specific aspect of the venue or service, based on where they are in or around your building.

Front-of-house teams could use smart watches instead of a radio when dealing with customer issues and potentially broadcasting sensitive information, for example VIPs, major donors or people with access needs.

It might also be useful for venue management by pushing notifications to your watch to let you know how seats are filling up in the auditorium, for instance.

A Google Glass-wearing digital box office team could, meanwhile, make check-in even easier by helping customers ‘tap in’ when they arrive at the venue. 

When it comes to actually making this a reality, software suppliers that want to adapt their arts CRM and box office software for wearable devices would need a reliable cloud infrastructure first.

>See also: The next customer frontier: how wearables are going mainstream in retail

Making the most of these opportunities will require a massive shift in perception and changes to infrastructure. Bandwidth in general needs to increase and arts venues need to invest in reliable in-house WiFi – none of which comes cheap.

Even if IT systems in the arts sector are brought up to speed, adoption of wearable technology still has a long way to go. But it’s important that arts organisations begin to prepare now for a sudden shift in acceptance.

A recent incident on Broadway showed just how much theatregoers’ behaviour has already been altered by the arrival of new, personal technology. Looking further ahead, what if a brain-sensing wearable could allow gallery goers to get inside the minds of curators to create a brain-based dialogue on new installations? Ready or not, it’s coming.

 

Sourced from Libby Penn, managing director, Spektrix 

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