WEARABLES IN THE WORKPLACE
Supercharging Enterprise Effectiveness
Tech giants like Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, and Sony have bred a wide, loyal and tech-hungry customer base for smart and connected consumer electronics. This constitutes an ideal – and growing – market for innovative products that are constantly being developed, upgraded, and enhanced. Right now, wearables are monopolizing early adopters’ wish lists. Like personal computers, MP3 players, and smartphones before them, wearables accompany users all the time, and they too have made their way into the workplace. But it is in fact enterprises – not consumers – who will drive the mass adoption of wearables. As they did with earlier devices, enterprises have recognized the potential of wearables to create value for them, and they are gradually integrating them into their core processes and operations. No company wants to be the last to adopt a new technology, especially if it carries with it such big promises of efficiency and quality improvement – not to mention billions of dollars in savings on expenditures. Let’s say it like it is: wearables will change the way enterprises do business forever.
Why Wearables Are Winning
Wearable shipments tripled in the third quarter 2015 compared to the same period in 2014, totaling 21 million units shipped, according to International data Corporation (IDC). Juniper Research,
reported that the global retail revenue from smart wearable devices exceeded $4.5 billion in 2015. Furthermore, it projected this figure will triple by end-2016, before reaching $53.2 billion by 2019.
There are clear reasons why wearables have conquered consumers’ hearts. Their “blend-in” design, function, and hands-free operation are undeniably strong selling points. But wearables go beyond this “gimmick” formula that has dominated fads over the past decades. Their capacity for integration and physical advantage open the door to original uses and applications.
1. They can be synced to existing smart devices Wearables still fall under the category of “companions” (ranked a little above accessories), and will continue to do so, according to Juniper Research. Rather than replace existing standalone devices, they work with smartphones, connected objects, apps, and each other, complementing their functionality in a non-intrusive and non-competing way. For example, Lebanon’s Bank Audi introduced wearables (bracelets and watches) in its near field communication (NFC) payment solutions (Tap2pay) which are linked to a mobile banking app. Likewise, the sensors on Instabeat’s smart goggles are linked to a mobile app and allow swimmers to measure their performance (a functionality that could be extended to other sports).
This two-way device communication constitutes a major value proposition for customers, since they run no risk of seeing their device outdated or outclassed. On the enterprise level, this means adoption would occur seamlessly, without any expensive infrastructure or software upgrades.
2. They will soon be mass-produced, growing better and more affordable The promising outlook for the wearable market has prompted more players – even those not traditionally associated with smart devices and wearables – to follow in this trend. Google, the search-engine-turned-tech-innovator, is the most prominent example. Camera manufacturers like Nikon, Canon, and newcomer Gopro have also rushed to introduce smart features and connectivity to their products. These may still be early days, but no one wants a repeat of Kodak’s epic fail when it rejected the first digital camera in 1975 – invented by one of its own engineers! Moreover, a wide and motley crew of new developers and manufacturers are constantly swelling the ranks of the wearables industry. As supply continues to grow, wearables will go into mass production, becoming more accessible, more versatile, and more affordable.
3. They are disrupting industries Wearables have taken the m-health and personal safety verticals by storm, starting with heart and fitness monitors. Lifesense, developed by the Lebanese startup Cardiodiagnostics, is an app-supported wrist-worn heart rate monitor capable of detecting cardiac complications, alerting medical response teams, and guiding them to the patient in case of emergency. Pathfinder, also from Lebanon, is another good example of a disruptive wearable device. It consists of a sensor-equipped belt linked to an app and capable of detecting obstacles to help visually impaired people navigate more effectively and avoid various obstacles. In this case, the choice of a belt prevailed over a phone, wrist or forehead because it is naturally located on the body’s most stable area, and therefore can read its surroundings most accurately.