Earlier this year, I attended Davis Wright Tremaine’s (DWT) Digital Download event. Hosted by Digital Counsel, the continuing education event examined themes in law, technology, and the impact of both on companies and clients. I was looking forward to the social media and wearables sessions, but my interest was piqued during the opening remarks by promises of shoes that are programmable to change color to match your outfit.
It’s no secret that clients have digital issues: social media, intellectual property, data security, privacy, and big data. And digital affects all clients, not just technology companies. Given that the biggest activity online is social media with almost two-thirds of the 1.5 billion Facebook users active every day—and businesses needing to be active online to survive—digital legal issues are critical to success.
One example given was that an executive at the fashion icon Burberry tripled its valuation by adopting a digital strategy; she was later recruited by Apple! Companies with digital adoption financially outperformed others according to the Capgemini Consulting ebook. Just look at the Starbucks’ story: free Wi-Fi and a mobile payment app makes it easy for people to work and purchase in stores. Oh, and they also gather all types of consumer data on you as a result. Even old school industries like mining are employing self-driving trucks.
It’s no surprise that lawyers are alarmed about the risks associated with digital. But it’s an opportunity to be a leader in your industry or firm. Lawyers should facilitate the necessary transformation by creating policies, procedures, and processes to enable the use of digital.
Couple of tips I gleaned from the Digital Download event:
- Be a digital user; be an early adopter in your personal life and discover how it can become part of your professional competitive advantage.
- Be proactive; don’t wait until technologies are brought to you by others.
- Have a digital mindset; create an innovative culture with an open door policy for questions on the legal aspects.
- Keep digital aspects in mind for all projects and hires.
- Don’t jump to “no” and point out all the risks. Instead, identify, and manage the risks.
The wearables market is projected to be $6 billion next year with growth to $1.6 trillion expected and 5.5 billion users by 2019. At this point, smart watches and fitness devices are about half the market, and 50% of consumers are worried about privacy. I have been using my Fitbit for just about a year—not an early adopter at all. Privacy has not been my concern. Instead, the one thing that has bothered me about my device is that it is kind of ugly.
Apparently, I am not alone, as many cite that the wearables are unwearable. Designers are now teaming up with technologies to make these devices appealing to the fashion conscious. The same presenter who mentioned the shoes that would color-coordinate with your outfits had a cocktail ring that would alert you of emails and texts. There also was talk of necklaces that could project texts onto your hands. Not so interesting was the dress that changes color if you are stressed along with a ring that does the same. I know when I am stressed, and I’m sure I have a mood ring left over from the 1970s somewhere.
Smart clothes seem to be the area with the largest growth potential. DWT’s lawyers demonstrated numerous wearables, including Ralph Lauren’s PoloTechÔ shirt that measures your activity and stress levels and the Mimo baby monitor wearable for babies’ vitals. These devices blend fun apps with the wellness industry. Micoach allows the coach to monitor all the players using team shirts.
Are lawyers ready for the state, federal, and international legal issues associated with wearables? Like social media, wearable issues go beyond ethics to include: Federal Trade Commission, data security, HIPAA, Food and Drug Administration, National Security Agency, law enforcement discovery surveillance, and vendor management issues. And once any data is collected, how does it stay anonymous? Similar to other legal issues, lawyers need to create good policies and provide on-going training to enable digital transformation.
After seeing a bracelet that changes color to match your outfit, I asked about the color-changing shoes. Patents pending but not out until later this year. I will be an early adopter there!