Saar Bitner, Sisense
Will.i.am recently released his version of the smartwatch, the Puls, which cements wearable technology as the next go-to accessory of celebrity fashion lines. Looking beyond their stylish appeal, the next generation of Big Data-enabled wearables contributes to the growing expectation that these devices will rise above simple fitness tracking capabilities to become a huge consumer success.
The true potential of wearable devices lies in their intersection with Big Data. This is why they will inevitably become mainstream in the enterprise market. The ability to access and analyze large datasets makes wearable devices useful and valuable to enterprise users, while maintaining their hip fashion cred.
Riding the IoT Wave
Thanks to the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), we will soon be able to track anything and everything. The basic premise of placing sensors and microchips anywhere to create a network that connects all possible devices is no longer science fiction. Soon, almost everything we own will have an IP address, and will generate tons of data that we can use to make intelligent business decisions.
The IoT wave is gaining traction exponentially. Whether wearable tech will grow as rapidly remains to be seen. While Google halted its Google Glass project for the time being, other major technology companies, from Samsung to Apple, are heavily investing in smartwatches or similar devices.
Because wearables offer specific solutions to specific problems, they are not an ideal model for consumer adoption. However, they are a great model for enterprises. Therefore, it looks like wearables are going to be evolve in the opposite direction of the consumer-driven smartphone: from the enterprise onward.
Wearables offer two main benefits for enterprises:
- Wearable devices can collect entirely new types of data (i.e., physiological information) and allow users to access this data in new ways and analyze it for corporate needs (i.e., tracking employee information, performance and satisfaction in real-time within organizations).
- Wearables can offer workers, especially mobile workers (like those in construction sites or policemen) brand new, and often hands-free, ways to take advantage of enterprise applications.
Trying out Wearable Tech
Across many industries and verticals, wearables are already being tested to see how to optimize their advantage for workplaces. Smartwatches are being used to provide safety and location-based alerts in potentially dangerous places, such as construction sites. Service technicians working on wind turbines are testing smartglasses to access orders and record photos or videos while keeping their hands on the job at hand. Surgeons are using this same method and trying out Google Glass to see patients’ vital signs without taking their eyes off the procedure.
These tricks are more than just time-savers. Gartner forecasts that by 2017, the use of Google Glass and other smartglasses will help add more than $1 billion per year to company profits.
In the Forrester report, according to J.P. Gownder, "perpetually connected wearables will enable workers, partners, and customers to experience new levels of immediacy, simplicity, and context in their mobile computing experiences. Wearables aren’t just a consumer phenomenon: they have the potential to change the way organizations and workers conduct business."
All of this points to the fact that enterprise will be the earlier target in opening the market to wearables. Use cases that focus on saving money and time while improving productivity, safety, and efficiency will push these devices into the organizations in which they are most beneficial. Companies like Intel are already jumping on the bandwagon, and according to Forrester technology decision makers are ranking wearable devices as a top priority in workplace strategy.
Planning for enterprise wearables will require coordination between companies’ technology and business leaders. IT and business managers must develop an understanding of the needs of individual employees, their workflows and the business benefits of the right devices. While harnessing the power that wearables can offer enterprises is not an easy task, it is undoubtedly more strategic than the more limited (though perhaps more fashionable) consumer products market.