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'Smartwatches are only the beginning': An interview with Gavin Wheeldon

This year has been an odd time for the mobile space with Apple embracing the phablet trend, Samsung losing a significant amount of market share, and the explosion in the popularity of wearables. We sat down with Gavin Wheeldon, CEO of Purple WiFi to discuss everything mobile, from this years trends, wearables, and what we expect to see in the mobile space next year.

Arguably 2014 has been the year that the phone has transformed into the personal assistant with Siri, Cortana, and Google Now really coming into their own.  What is the reason for this and how will the mobile space evolve in 2015?

On launch, many personal assistant apps were unreliable, and really more of a gimmick than a useful tool. This year’s growth has undoubtedly been fuelled by improved dependability of these apps. The rapid growth of Wi-Fi hotspots has supported this trend, and we expect to see the continuation and evolution of mobile devices as personal assistants, as we use them to interact with our environment in increasingly innovative ways; including wearable tech, virtual advertising, showrooming, in-store purchasing and wayfinding.

My favourite non-fitness, non-watch wearable tech of 2014 is the smartring. There are a few options, such as the iRing and Nod Ring, and I’m not so much interested in it as a device, but as a controller for existing devices. For example, using it to browse the web on a tablet, type text, answer your smartphone and control your Smart TV. It’s the ultimate in multi-device gesture control.

Looking forward to 2015, I expect to see wearable tech that compliments existing technologies, such as solar clothing that can recharge your device wherever you are, and bike helmets with built-in navigation systems to guide you as you cycle, which is much safer than using a smartphone on the move.

Are smartwatches just a fad? What would you like to see in a smartwatch, or do you think that any companies are already on the right track with their offerings?

I don’t believe smartwatches are a fad, but they are only the beginning, an introduction to wearable technology to open our minds to new possibilities.

This means that today’s smartwatches are first generation technology; they are testing the water for bigger developments. Think back to the first smartphones, the basic concept has remained the same, but the functionality is so much better.

Most of the current range of Smartwatches rely on being tethered to a smartphone, but this is already changing, and examples such as the Samsung Gear S are independent in terms of functionality and actions, which is a glimpse into the future.

I would like to see more focus on independent device functionality, but still synched to our other tech.

What are you most excited about in the mobile space for 2015?

Our specialism – the personalisation of location based services. Software such as Purple Wi-Fi allow businesses to become much more targeted, timely and relevant to their customer base. Location based services will become to marketing data what loyalty cards were in the noughties.

Customers will gain the information they need at the moment and place they need it. Installations like City Wide Wi-Fi take this beyond commercialism, into health and environmental concerns. For example, wouldn't it be great if Wi-Fi could guide you to the nearest parking space, saving on emissions? Provide audio guidance to the partial sighted? or monitor activity levels in the elderly to identify when to raise the alarm? Some of these have already been achieved, some we expect to see in 2015.

Huge thanks to Gavin to chatting to us. Purple Wi-Fi are finalists in the Tech Trailblazers Awards in you enjoyed the interview or found Gavin's responses useful vote for Purple Wi-Fi here.