The business case for enterprise wearables

Steve Evans

Friday 16 October 2015

Wearables in the workplace may soon become the latest must-have accessory, but the IT department must be sure of the benefits before presenting the business case

There is a perception that wearable technology is little more than smartwatches and fitness trackers. And while those two make up a big percentage of the market, there are so many more areas where wearables can make a difference, especially in the workplace.

The market as a whole is expected to reach revenues of $16.1bn in 2015, while another report predicts a 35 per cent compound annual growth rate over the next five years, with smartwatches leading the charge.

But the consumer space is in fact expected to decline, as witnessed by the failure of Google Glass. Instead, it is the corporate space where wearables are expected to surge. Gartner, for example, predicts that smart glasses will live on and prosper in the field services industry. Usage of smart glasses could save the field services industry $1 billion a year in 2017, Gartner says.

Technology services and consulting firm Accenture outlined the main benefits businesses could achieve by embracing wearables in the workplace: Real-time, hands-free access to data; connections to other workers, which helps training and collaboration; and speeding up of the corporate decision-making process.

However, while there are benefits to using wearable technology in the workplace getting business buy-in to begin rollout is easier said than done. There are a few steps you can take when presenting the business case for investing in wearables in the workplace that will help the project move ahead.

First, establish exactly which departments will need wearables and which will benefit most from their introduction. There is no point spending money on buying them and training staff how to use them if they are not compatible with the jobs those particular workers are doing.

There will be departments within the business that will benefit more more than others; manual or emergency workers will feel the benefit of being able to use both hands while still consuming data in real-time, but office workers who sit in front of a desk all day may not.

Second, work out what type of wearables will best benefit the business. A wristband? Or a smartwatch? Or smart glasses? Or something else? This of course ties in with the first step; once the workers and/or departments are identified it should be clear which wearables will work best.

Finally, work with the employees that will be using the wearables every day to establish exactly what they want out of the system. How much data will they want to be pushed out? What kind of data would they like? Being able to demonstrate to the business that its workers are already on board and will happily use wearable tech will undoubtedly help the business sign off on the investment.

There’s no doubt that wearables will have a positive impact in the workplace but it’s important that IT establishes exactly what is needed and the benefits they will bring before pitching the idea to the business.