For most of us Foolish investing geeks out there, the concepts of "wearable tech" or the "Internet of things" probably takes your mind to disruption, changing market shares, and opportunities to find the next hot growth stock.
But have you stopped to consider how these technologies may help not only the stocks of the companies making these products, but more generally your investing process itself?
Warren Buffett's new glasses
For this thought experiment, who better to turn to the Oracle of Omaha himself, Warren E. Buffett, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK-A) (NYSE:BRK-B). Now, imagine for a moment that Warren removed his thick-framed glasses and donned a sleek pair of Google's (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Glass.
Assuming this thought didn't explode your brain with amazement, let's flashback to 1988.
Warren is sitting at Gorat's in Omaha, waiting for his favorite steak dinner. His waiter brings out a bottle of a delicious, bubbly soft drink with a red label and a scripted, white logo.
Buffett speaks softly to Glass, "Hey Google, what is this delicious beverage? It's AMAZING!"
Pleasantly, Glass would have answered, "It's a Coca Cola (NYSE:KO), Mr. Buffett." Glass, knowing that Warren is, well, Warren Buffett, would have certainly included the ticker for the stock.
From there, Glass would have projected Coke's market share, financial highlights, competition, and valuation metrics in an easy to read and unobtrusive visual that only Buffett could see. Immediately impressed with what he saw, Warren would have used Glass to call or email his famed business partner Charlie Munger to share his discovery. A few weeks of due diligence later, Warren and Charlie are buying.
For investors today, this application still resonates. We advocate investing in businesses you understand and want to own for the ultra-long term here at the Fool. One effective method for sourcing these types of businesses is to observe products and services in your life that solve problems for you. With Glass, those products can be identified, their corporate information can be immediately available, and you can email the details to yourself for further due diligence.
All of this can happen essentially in the background of your life, without disturbing your friends or significant other sitting with you at the table, in the car, or anywhere else.
A virtual ride on the railroad
Fast forward now to 2009. Buffett has become very impressed with Burlington Northern Sante Fe's then-CEO Matthew Rose since his first investment in the company in 2006. Interested in understanding the railroads capital investments more deeply, Buffett sends a spare pair of Glass to Rose.
Rose leaves BNSF headquarters in Fort Worth for the newly constructed rail exchanges outside Chicago, eager to show off the opportunity for the company supporting the oil and gas boom in the region.
Buffett, sitting comfortable in his office in Omaha (probably full from a lunch at Gorat's), and the rest of the Omaha team watch as Rose streams his view, live from Chicago. Buffett, Munger, and others can ask questions in real time, see the work being done, and visually understand the scale of the freight boom downstream from the oil fields in North Dakota.
Much like Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) changed the relationship between celebrities, athletes, politicians, and other public figures and the masses, Glass could revolutionize the way companies interact with shareholders. This sort of company-investor interaction could bring unprecedented access for the retail investing world. No longer would analysts from big investment banks have behind-the-scenes access. Everyone would have a first-person view.
The upside is limitless
The real beauty of a product and platform like Google Glass, and the many other wearable tech products in development at other companies, is the collective genius of the developers who will build applications for the hardware.
Look no further than Google's Android operating system and its Play Store, or Apple's App Store for iOS to see the potential. Build a platform based on impressive and useful hardware, and the brilliant minds of developers around the world will create uses beyond anyone's most ambitious expectation.
As investors, its not enough to only spend time looking for new opportunities, researching those opportunities, and maintaining our existing portfolio. We must also devote a portion of our energy to improving our process.
How can you improve your ability to recognize a product that is a cut above the rest? How can you improve your analysis methodology to understand a company better, deeper, and in less time? What tools can you deploy to enhance your returns and minimize your risks?
These are the kind of problems and questions that future tech can solve. Yes, its exciting to think about the huge market that Google Glass could unlock, sending Google's stock to incredible highs. But don't stop there. Sometimes, these technologies can improve your investing in all companies, not just one.
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