Putting Wearables to Work

Over the last few years, hype over wearables has reached a fevered pitch. Although Google Glass has disappeared (for now) and the Apple Watch has encountered a tepid response within the enterprise—industry research indicates that business users account for about 2 percent of smartwatch sales—don’t think that wearable devices are a passing fad.

Within a decade, many of us will be wearing smartwatches and possibly goggles and other devices with increasing frequency—for work functions.

Apple understands this. Google understands this. Microsoft understands this. However, the transition won’t take place overnight.

Market research firm Strategy Analytics estimates that businesses will account for about 15 percent of Apple Watch sales by 2017. Meanwhile, Bloomberg Business reports that a diverse array of firms, from health-care providers to software giant SAP, are testing Apple Watches and other wearables.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. A February 2015 Salesforce.com survey of 500 business professionals found that 79 percent believe that wearable technology will be a key to future success. Already, 76 percent report improvements in business performance for wearable devices in the enterprise. Early adopters say that smartwatches will have the biggest impact (49 percent) and the quickest adoption rate (40 percent).

In fact, 62 percent said they are already piloting or planning to use a smartwatch in the enterprise within the next two years. The appeal? Real-time access to customer data, hands-free instruction for guides in field service, access to business analytics and alerts, and “see-what-I-see” coaching with a live remote tech or trainer. In addition, wearables will generate new and valuable data that will feed analytics.

It’s important to remember that wearables are in their infancy. For instance, the Apple Watch is a remarkable device and the company is the first to get the concept right. But it’s still a bit slow, battery life is limited and it’s completely tethered to the iPhone. Meanwhile, Google Glass is being redesigned for the enterprise.

Other wearables fall into the same general category of not-quite-ready-for-prime-time business. But expect things to begin tilting toward the enterprise when Apple releases the next version of Apple Watch in 2016. Also expect to see a greater use of smart cameras, embedded apparel or accessories as well as an array of clip-on or wrist-based devices.

Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard writes about business, technology and other topics. His book, The Internet of Things (MIT Press) was released in the spring of 2015.

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