It seems quaint to remember when mobile-first was considered radically forward thinking. Now, given the Internet of Things, not only does “mobile” mean so much more than phones, the places content can (and will) go are boundless. Daunting? Yes. But also exciting.
When David Mitchell joined AccuWeather eight years ago, he had responsibility for all of the company’s digital platforms, which at the time meant anemphasis on mobile. Now, as the Vice President of Digital Media, Emerging Platforms, he’s heading up a team focused on the (new) future. , Mitchell and his team are exploring the myriad opportunities presented by the ability to connect current and historical weather data to all of the rich contextual data that is now being collected through wearables and the Internet of Things.
Mitchell describes it as early days in terms of what is possible. “We’re launching some 101 stuff that goes beyond simply providing the weather on another device” he says, pointing to the company’s work with partners such as Garmin, for which it developed an app that gives users air quality and allergy information. He describes AccuWeather’s first-generation wearable apps as “one size fits all, based on location.”
However he is very enthusiastic about what the next generation or two of applications will bring. His team is beginning to look at what is possible when AccuWeather’s data—which was recently enhanced by the acquisition of WeatherBank—is combined with the data collected by internet-connected devices themselves. He looks forward to seeing what his team can come up with when, for example AccuWeather.com’s Lifestyle Forecasts, which offer localized insights into things like flu, skiing, lawn and garden and snow days, can be combined with device data for use in other areas.
The second stage of development, he believes, will be the tailoring content by general categories such as gender and age, eventually leading to truly personalized content experiences if people opt-in to providing more specific information about themselves.. This might mean that your watch notifies you on days when you’re most likely to perform your personal best, according to your vital signs and recent eating habits. The goal, he says, would be for devices to be helpful and even save you time and money: “Right now, you can adjust your thermostat remotely with your phone, but wouldn’t it be great if it would auto-adjust based on your habits and preferences to save you money—and be the perfect temperature when you walk in the door?”
Of course there are potentially lucrative advertising opportunities that come with an informed universe of connected devices. (Setting out for a new personal best today? Perhaps these shoes would help…) While Mitchell concedes that advertising will likely be a part of funding AccuWeather’s wearable future, he says that right now he’s not focused on it. “We need to build this ecosystem. If we worry too much about the business models, we aren’t going to focus enough on getting stuff right.”
Mitchell believes that this week’s news about the introduction of the Apple Watch is good news for the future of wearables. In particular, he believes that Apple’s Open Source Resource Kit will encourage a fresh round of development in the space, noting that “Apple can make wearables more mainstream.”
In a recent panel at Mobile World Congress, Mitchell had an opportunity to give his opinion on what needs to happen for wearables and Internet of Things to build that mainstream momentum. “On top of the things the other panelists pointed to, such as a need for standards and a business model, the big thing I see that we need is trust between organizations. We are at the very beginning of this stuff, but the potential is phenomenal.” That potential, says Mitchell, is not just to earn money for organizations, but to “positively affect people’s lives.”