Hi-tech analysts Juniper Research predict that by 2019, the global retail revenue from smart wearable devices will have risen from around £3.17 billion per annum today to £33.72 billion. Whereas at present the predominant users of wearables are consumers, there is also a huge amount of potential for businesses. Wearables have the ability to transform the very way in which we conduct business. The technology can reshape how work gets done, how decisions get made, and the way we engage with employees and customers alike. However before adopting the new technology, employers must think carefully about exactly how the devices can be put to use and how employees will react to having to use the devices. With this in mind, Nick Black, co-founder and director at Apadmi, takes a look at how this new technology can be used effectively in a business setting.
One advantage to using wearables for corporate use is that unlike consumers, businesses do not have to wait until the market catches up to make a purchase. Leading companies have already invested in wearables and are putting them to good use in a number of different sectors using them for increasingly innovative purposes.
Choosing the right technology
There are number of different wearable products on the market and enterprises considering investing in the technology must first decide which device is best fit for purpose.
Whereas a smartwatch may at first glance seem like a consumer-facing device, in actuality it has application in a business setting too. Whereas someone sitting at a desk all day may not require hourly insights about their health, in comparison the emergency services have a lot to gain from such data. For example when time is literally of the essence emergency service workers can use a smartphone connected to a mobile network to call for back-up and make life saving calls by saving valuable seconds.
Smart glasses can be used in the medical field and can be used to monitor patients’ vitals and send that information straight to doctors. Whilst surgeons can now use intelligent glasses for everything from examining patients records and x-rays to even assisting complex operations virtually.
Wearable technology can also be used in a clinical trial study to capture and continuous track physiological data of study patients. For example, there are wearables in the medical setting such as hand held electrocardiograph (ECG), ingestible smart pills that transmit data, body patches that captures physiological responses and smart inhalers with Bluetooth that could potentially streamline medical processes, which can send information directly to the clinician who can monitor a patient remotely.
Despite the range of different products on the market, the common denominator of all the wearable devices is that it allow users to go hands-free – and this is precisely why they are so useful to businesses. For the emergency services for example, wearables can provide high-tech mobility and tracking services. Alternatively smartglasses could be harnessed effectively by anyone working in the construction industry as it allows workers to consult a manual whilst performing repairs. The devices can also be used to manage equipment remotely, for example machinery on the assembly line, helping to increase the overall safety of a manufacturing site. In sales, wireless headsets with wrist displays can be used to store information whilst workers talk remotely to customers on the phone.
The retail sector is also putting the technology to good use; for example Tesco, the largest supermarket in Britain, has started introducing hi-tech armbands that can allocate jobs, track products and movements throughout the warehouse and also set estimated times for jobs to be completed.
Devices are also allowing employers to provide on-the-job training to employees, helping upskill workers across the board.
Collecting valuable insights
As well as the functionality element, the data that wearables can collect is also invaluable for businesses. For example, data from wearables gives managers insights into how employees can perform tasks more effectively, what motivates them and what keeps their spirits high. This information alone is powerful enough to drive engagement, a factor in business performance that leaders constantly seek to improve.
Despite the considerable potential that wearables have for businesses, at present employees are apprehensive about the new technology and have reservations about how it may affect their privacy. Research Apadmi recently conducted into employee opinions towards wearables in the workplace found that 25 per cent of respondents would actually consider changing roles if their employer required them to use wearable technology as part of their role. These statistics show that in order to bridge the gap and increase the overall uptake of wearables in business, employers must first work to educate employees of the benefits the devices can bring and to try to quell fears surrounding privacy.
Wearable technology has the potential to increase employer productivity and increase job satisfaction which in turn can lead to happier customers. However before investing in the newest state-of-the-art devices businesses must first consider what is trying to be achieved. Whether this is aiming to increase productivity, boost quality, support remote working, or improve health and safety, well-thought out planning goes a long way. Wearable technology should be introduced to provide a function and to satisfy a purpose – it should not be implemented just for the sake of having it in the workplace.
And while many businesses will be keen to test out new and exciting technologies to keep up with their competitors, it’s also important to bear in mind that employees will be expected to use these devices, so it is imperative that employees feel comfortable using the devices on a day—to-day basis.