Empowering the enterprise with wearables
Wearables have been making waves in the consumer world for a number of years, with Gartner recently predicting that sales of the devices are set to grow by 18.4% this year. It’s a different story however, in the enterprise world, where wearables are only just starting to infiltrate workers’ professional lives.
Investment can only be justified if there is a clear use case for them and identifiable benefits for the employee. Here, I explore some of the industries that could benefit significantly from the growing trend, and some of the challenges that must be addressed before there can be widespread adoption in professional circles.
The impact of wearables on industry
Last year saw the beginnings of wearable devices being trialled in the workplace. For instance, smart glasses are starting to be used to help train up workers in different sectors, such as in Field Services and Maintenance, where technicians often need to have their hands free to perform certain operations or fix machinery. Using smart glasses, the technician can read instructions displayed on the lens and operate the equipment at the same time, enabling them to become much more productive and efficient in their day-to-day role. Smart glasses in the workplace could deliver smart savings with Gartner recently predicting their use could bring $1bn of savings each year from 2017.
Taking this one step further, the armed forces could also benefit from the use of wearables in training. For example, by combining smart glasses with augmented reality, soldiers could be put through their paces with simulated training exercises to practice how to react in different combat scenarios.
Wearables are also increasingly being used to check the condition of employees who may be working in dangerous or difficult circumstances. Employers have a responsibility to keep their staff safe, and for those working in extreme temperatures for instance, wearables can be used to monitor staff’s body temperatures as well as the temperature of the environment. This information can then be relayed back to the employer in real-time so that conditions can be adjusted or action taken if required.
Will wearables take over the workplace this year?
While it’s clear that wearables have the potential to empower individuals in exciting ways in the enterprise world, we are still at least two years away from mass deployment. This is because there are a number of challenges that must be addressed first.
Technology constraints, for instance – such as battery life, interoperability between devices and the physical size and comfort of each device –must be assessed if we’re to see widespread adoption in the workplace.
Data privacy and security are also key areas of concern that need to be carefully considered. While there are clear benefits to using wearables to track and monitor employees’ health, it must first be established who owns this sensitive data and who holds responsibility for storing it securely. Is it down to the company or the individual, and what role, if any, should a third party play in holding the data? Devices, and more importantly the apps and services downloaded on to the devices, should be private and secure by design; and therefore, clear policies need to be set in stone before wearables can become mainstream in industry.
Once these challenges have been addressed however, I see no reason why wearables couldn’t become as popular in the workplace as they are in individuals’ personal lives. From smart clothes sending information on patients’ health to medical staff to bracelets tracking our fitness and alerting retailers of customers’ allergies, the possibilities are endless!