Wearables in the workplace

Steve Evans

Monday 23 February 2015

As CES 2015 has shown, wearable technology options are plentiful. Like all new technology, businesses should be looking at what benefits it can bring to the enterprise, and how to start planning for it.

It’s been difficult to follow the tech press over the last few months without reading about how wearable technology is going to change our lives. Smart watches such as Lenovo’s ultra-light Vibe Band VB10, Samsung’s Galaxy Gear and other devices from Sony, LG, Motorola and more; Google Glass; as well as fitness devices such as Fitbit and Jawbone Up – these are just some of the products making a splash.

However, a number of industry observers are questioning how much of this is relevant to enterprise technology. Many use cases for wearable gadgets seem at first glance to be consumer-related; for instance, fitness bands counting steps and monitoring sleep or watches notifying users of incoming text messages.

But dig a little deeper and it seems that the enterprise is the perfect place for many of the wearables emerging at the moment. Indeed, Gartner’s Angela McIntyre believes Google Glass could make an impact in the enterprise. In Forbes, she states the following: “Smart glasses, such as Google Glass, are causing CIOs to take a fresh look at the impact wearable electronics will have on the enterprise and their potential to improve worker efficiency in vertical markets such as manufacturing, field service, retail and healthcare.”

Any business where workers need to go hands-free could benefit from smart glasses. Displaying vital information via glasses means a maintenance or emergency worker, for example, will not have to interrupt what they are doing in order to check a smartphone, tablet or laptop screen, making workers more productive. Office-based employees can benefit from wearables, too; sales staff can use smart glasses to display data in real-time.

In fact, data is set to be one of the big benefits for businesses. Wearables – whether it’s glasses, watches or something else – will create another data stream for businesses to analyse.This can give them an unprecedented insight into how employees spend their day. Identifying and subsequently changing weaknesses or inefficiencies in business processes and workflow can make the whole organisation more productive and efficient, as well as spur growth. And isn’t that something all businesses want to do?

There are also health benefits; trackers can monitor how often a worker gets up to walk around, whether they’re drinking enough water, whether they’re taking the lift or walking up the stairs, and even how their posture is when sitting down.

For businesses looking to embrace wearables it’s important to take a look at IT policy to ensure it is ready to handle the influx of new gadgets. This means capturing and analysing the new data in order to help the business become more efficient and productive.