Wearables are going to invade the workplace. That’s the conclusion of a recent survey of US IT decision makers by analyst firm 451. The survey found that the majority of US IT decision-makers at companies that use or plan to use wearable technologies will be rolling them out in the next 12 months. And those that do, smart watches will dominate other forms of wearable.
“The release of Apple Watch has opened the flood gates governing wearables’ adoption,” said Ryan Martin, Analyst, IoT and Wearable Technologies. “But now that the river is running, it’s less about where it will end and more about where – and when – to start. We expect wearable technology to deliver a key interface and input into the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).”
This swell of interest smart watches in the enterprises is backed up by research from CRM vendor Salesforce, which found that 79% of businesses that have already adopted wearables in some way consider them as a key area of strategic importance to future business success, particularly in client engagement.
Salesforce launched its Salesforce Wear development platform as early as mid- 2014, offering wide support for multiple devices and platforms, such as Android Wear, Fitbit and Pebble, with an aim of improving customer satisfaction and enhancing business agility.
No surprise that on Apple Watch launch day the Salesforce app was ready to go. Functionality includes an Analytics Cloud app that provides a view of the dashboard to give users quick business insights; a voice search that lets users look up reports by speaking, and notifications for sales staff out in the field. The latter means they could, for example, get approval for a discount for a customer without needing to call in or even check for an email.
Elsewhere, PayPal has announced that you can buy directly using the service from a Samsung Gear 2 smartwatch, and Amazon customers can make purchases straight from the Apple Watch screen.
Eyes on the future
It’s not just about smartwatches though. Google Glass is still very much in the frame, despite the fact that the search giant no longer sells the product to consumers.
This proof on concept from Wearable Intelligence powerfully demonstrates how Glass could work in the real world. In the video, a paramedic uses Glass to read a patient’s vital signs, which are then wirelessly transferred to a doctor at the hospital so he is ready and fully informed as the patient arrives. The doctor records a video of the patient’s symptoms on Glass, and then sends it to a specialist, who is able to quickly make a diagnosis.
Wearable Intelligence is also looking to demonstrate how Glass can improve workflow, safety and compliance for engineers and operators out in the field. For example, an operator can read off information on an oil pipe and send it on immediately just by looking and speaking, speeding up processes. As the project manager says in the video: “the time that it takes to get information, is what cost us so much.”
Meanwhile, SAP has teamed up with Vuzix to create augmented reality glasses that can scan bar codes for warehouse workers to speed up operations.
It’s not all about advanced Wi-Fi-enabled optical overlay technology. More straightforward tech such as RFID equipped lanyards can provide crucial data insight for event management. The badges and lanyard can be used for on-site payment transactions and manage access to rooms and VIP areas. The data can then be analysed to deliver insights into footfall and traffic flow, which can be vital for the profitability of large conferences.
This emphasises that the value that wearables can bring to the enterprise is not in the devices themselves, but in the speed of data insight that they offer.
So much so, it’s predicted that fitness trackers such as Fitbit and Jawbone will enable health insurance companies to be able to alter premiums on a daily basis, based on the real-time data extracted from wearable devices.
However, this could be a problem for some, particularly those who fear that too much information could impinge on privacy. Just recently, a lawsuit was instigated after a worker was fired for uninstalling a GPS tracking app from her phone. This is the type of scenario that will surely be exacerbated by wearable technology. Keeping within laws and maintaining customer trust will be important and challenging issues that the industry must face.
Find out how Orange can help you leverage apps for your wearables here.
I've been writing about technology for nearly 20 years, including editing industry magazines Connect and Communications International. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Anthony Plewes. My focus in Futurity Media is in emerging technologies, social media and future gazing. As a graduate of philosophy & science, I have studied futurology & foresight to the post-grad level.