Wearable technologies are quickly moving from fad to function in the corporate environment, with more and more companies recognising the value they could bring.
As activity-based working and flexible-working methods gain popularity, wearable technology could be the next frontier in corporate devices as its potential for consumer application and uptake looks set to decline. For those companies that employ technicians, engineers and skilled manual workers, smartglasses are poised to become the latest must-have device.
Gartner predicted that the use of smartglasses alone would help add more than US$1 billion per year to the field service industry by 2017. The analyst firm believes that smartglasses are poised to revolutionise industries such as field service, manufacturing, retail and healthcare – all industries where employees work with their hands.
A 2014 report from Accenture states that businesses could see substantial benefits from wearable technologies, such as:
- Providing employees with real-time access to data while freeing their hands to hold tools or equipment.
- Enabling field workers to connect with more experienced colleagues who can see exactly what the worker is seeing.
- Helping speed up corporate decision-making.
Some wearable technologies incorporate features that can be used to benefit individuals in their corporate and personal lives. For example, smartbands that track employees’ steps, calories burnt, distances walked and hours of sleep can potentially be integrated into corporate health programs that aim to improve productivity and work-life balance. These bands can also be paired with smartphones via Bluetooth, allowing users to receive alerts about text messages or calls through their smartbands while away from their desks.
The Accenture report also provides a detailed list of considerations for businesses that are thinking of introducing wearable technologies.
Which wearable technologies best fit your business requirements?
This goes well beyond considering whether smartglasses or wrist-worn smartwatches or bands are most appropriate. For example, you’ll need to consider which type of smartglass display is best for your operation. Do your workers need a ‘monocular’ display, which provides information in a corner of their field of view, or a fully immersive display? What requirements do you have that may best be met by a smartwatch?
How can you use wearable technologies to transform how your workers do their jobs?
The key lies in mapping existing work processes and evaluating where wearable technologies can deliver the greatest returns in efficiency and innovation. Taking this approach also ensures investments in wearable technologies can be allocated effectively.
How can you adapt your business to make the most of wearable technologies?
The Accenture report argues that you will need to ensure the technologies “empower employees to pull relevant information that they need and [make them] want to perform their job more effectively… not push information to them”.
Minimising employee distraction and applying techniques to minimise battery drain, such as disabling Wi-Fi and turning off chipsets when not in use, are other key considerations suggested by Accenture.
When introducing wearable technologies, companies should also be mindful of potential issues like the impact of wearables on their IT infrastructure, how best to apply analytics and visualisation to the data collected and managing privacy and security.
The potential for long-term transformative change in this field is staggering, with many industries benefiting from such an evolution in technology. For Australian companies, leaping on board early and discovering the value of wearable technology is vital in gaining a competitive advantage.
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