Watching the Watch

It's been three months since the much-hyped Apple Watch hit the market. While initial reactions from tech pundits have been mixed and Apple has been mum on exactly how many of the wearables it has sold, many in the travel and meetings industries can't help but think there's something there that can one day help to personalize and improve the overall event attendee experience.

Of course, not every tech proponent in the industry feels this way. "I'm not at all surprised Apple Watch sales are plunging," tweeted Social Tables founder and CEO Dan Berger the other day. "I find smart watches to be unappealing stylistically and unnecessary functionally."

I confess that similar thoughts occurred to me in the months leading up to the launch, but I'm trying to keep an open mind. After all, I wasn't at all sold on the iPad until I used one. Could the Watch have something to offer?

Event app developer QuickMobile is anticipating it will. The company recently debuted a mobile event app with Apple Watch integration at the Corporate Event Marketing Association Annual Summit in San Diego. In addition to the more robust functionality of QuickMobile's event app for the CEMA Summit, those with an Apple Watch could use two views: a Glance View, which displayed information about the next session coming up, as well as their personal schedules; and Schedule View, which displayed as a list the attendee's complete personal schedule as developed through the main CEMA mobile event app. Event details, such as color-coded tracks, were shown and could be scrolled through by swiping or using the digital bezel on the watch.

"We are just scratching the surface with the CEMA integration," noted QuickMobile CEO Craig Brennan, "and we couldn't be more excited for the future of the platform for our customers around the world."

I chatted with the always enthusiastic Trevor Roald, QuickMobile's manager of industry relations, about the Watch integration. While he was bullish about the Watch's potential, he admitted he himself needed some time with the device to comprehend its usefulness. "Once you start to live with it, it's amazing," he said. "It really is phenomenal."

The key, says Roald, is the device's utility: It is a way to convey personalized, task-related information quickly and in a timely fashion __ like a watch, really, more so than some space-age, Dick Tracy-like device. While he can't imagine scrolling through attendee or speaker lists on the Watch, looking at schedules, receiving alerts and reminders, and participating in polls all seem like more natural uses. Down the road, he suggests, we might even look at ways of tapping into the healthkit functionality to assess levels of engagement or enthusiasm over the course of an event.

"But at this point we're all exploring," he noted. "The user experience will be refined over time, and new use cases will present themselves." Now, however, it's not even yet possible to get analytics about how many attendees used the mobile app on an Apple Watch. Anecdotally, he observed about half a dozen attendees at CEMA with Apple Watches. "There's still a lot of learning," he said. "But now it's just really fun to be part of the community at the forefront of the exploration."

QuickMobile has published a white paper, Apple Watch: The Event Planner's Guide, which you can find in our white papers section.