From Google Glass to Apple Watch: Wax Digital's new smartwatch procurement solution

I recently had the chance to speak to Daniel Ball, CEO of Wax Digital, about his company's new smartwatch procurement solution, launched in London at the eWorld Purchasing and Supply conference 2015.

The full interview can be found below:

  1. How was your time at eWorld?

Really good thanks. It was a busy event with over 300 purchasing professionals in attendance and a huge amount of interest in the innovations we are bringing to market.

Showcasing disruptive and exciting technologies is a great way to get people excited about what we (and they) do and prompts really strong engagement

  1. Why did you feel now was the right time to launch a smartwatch solution?

Android wear and devices like Pebble are gaining in popularity, but relatively slowly to date and are still very much in the early adopter space.

The Apple Watch will change that dynamic in the consumer market, with anywhere up to 60 million units forecast to ship in the first year of release, so it is a platform that is going to become much more mainstream in the next 12 months.

  1. What role do you see smartwatches playing in the future of the procurement industry?

They are an enabler, and no doubt there will be many other formats in years to come, but the watch is likely to be amongst the most prevalent simply because it takes forward the capabilities of a device that already has mass-market acceptance.

Most maverick spend comes about as a result of frustration with the complexity / overhead / inefficiency of the compliance process, where people around the business find the process of raising a purchase order and its associated activities far too cumbersome and so work around it.

They would generally prefer to buy compliantly, but if is difficult and time consuming they don’t and then it becomes the de facto corporate culture. Devices like the smart watch can help simplify that experience and make it more efficient, convenient and effective. This will allow procurement to transform compliance rates by winning hearts and minds much more effectively than dictating policy.

  1. What are the main features of the smartwatch app?

Users can simply ask their watch (voice control) for a particular item – say laptop or computer mouse – and the watch will return all the relevant results that can then be swiped through and further details viewed on the watch screen.

It lets you find what you’re after and add it to your basket at the touch of the watch face. Approvals, receipting and a wide range of system alerts and messages can also be handled and actioned via the watch interface.

  1. How would you compare the smartwatch app with your recently released Google Glass app? (functionality, ease of use etc).

They are very similar in terms of core functional capability, but the differing nature of the devices lends them to particular roles. Google Glass is perfect for what we would see as high volume users; logistics and stores workers, maintenance operatives and so on whose role can be significantly enhanced by the capability to simply look at an item to prompt a re-order.

They are the kind of people who might already carry a barcode scanner or a tablet with them and whose efficiency can thereby be improved by a better, more portable, continually available device that sits on their body rather than having to carry it around and that provides a much better functional experience.

The watch doesn’t allow for the kind of step change in process enhancement that augmented reality does, but is a much more commonplace device with lower barriers to acceptance on all fronts – aesthetics, cost, privacy etc.

This means that it is suitable (certainly at this point) for a much wider user community to free them up from a desktop and put purchasing power in their hands wherever they are.

So nurses, chefs, production line managers, salespeople – really any kind of role that is not tied to a desk – gets the facility to raise requisitions on their wrists through an unobtrusive, always-ready and ever-present device that also serves to tell them the time, serve up emails, monitor how many steps they have taken in the day and so on.

  1. Google Glass has become more of an enterprise product than a consumer one, do you think there's any danger of the same thing happening with smartwatches?

Not as much, because watches by their nature are very much more pervasive already (albeit in ‘dumb’ form) and offer very few of the barriers to acceptance (as mentioned above).

They are likely to meet less resistance, but actually to become sought-after and commonplace consumer items. That said, for B2B software vendors like us the fact that something becomes a business rather than consumer tool is no disadvantage.

We target the corporate user who makes use of this technology as part of their working life, because it delivers a business benefit and a return on its investment over and above any other consideration.