We've all seen Google Glasses (back in the day), Fitbits, and Apple Watches around town, but could these new technological gadgets really make their way into the workplace? The answer to that question is a definite yes. Credit Suisse called wearables the "next big thing" and said the industry could grow by a staggering 1000% over the next few years to be a $50 billion industry.
Wearables are hands-free devices that allow users to easily get information when they're on the go or have their hands busy. We see it in small ways with activity trackers that count calories and steps, watches that read texts and change the TV channel, and clothing accessories that give directions. In the workplace, however, there is an incredible potential for wearables to transform how we work and interact.
The biggest area of growth for workplace wearables has been wearable display, such as smart glass and watches. And for as much growth as we've seen in the consumer wearables market lately, the business enterprise market is growing even more quickly, according to Accenture's Brent Blum, Wearable Technology Leader, and Paul Daugherty, CTO. For every product we see on the shelf, there are dozens more advanced products in development.
Wearables truly have the potential to transform how we work. Consider a factory worker tasked with sorting various supplies. In the old method, he would use a clipboard and paper to look up each item and find where it belongs, but in the new wearable world, he can tap into his smart glasses and see the information he needs as he moves to the correct destination. It may seem like a small shortcut, but it adds up quickly and can save enormous amounts of time. For a worker who is constantly on the phone or on the move, a smart watch that can read emails, surf the internet, and alert her of appointments can be more efficient. There's also the example of a forklift driver who has his hands full operating a big machine. A wearable device that can measure his heart's biorhythms or muscle contractions could soon be used to unlock a door or grant access without having to enter a code or swipe a card. Again, these seemingly small time-savers add up and create a more optimized workplace.
There may be a lot of growth in the wearables market, but there are also a lot of challenges. Wearables provide a lot of information, but the next step is taking advantage of that information and turning it into a habit or useful office information. A smart watch may be able to gauge how many products pass a facility operator every day, but unless that information plays a role in creating a better operations plan, it will be ineffective. To be successful in the workplace, wearables need to help employees do their jobs better. We've seen success in that regard, but the effort needs to continue as wearables evolve.
Another focus area for wearables is making the technology disappear. Wearables have a notoriously high abandonment rate (remember Google Glass?) for a number of reasons, but largely due to the fact that they can appear clunky and unattractive. A wearable device could be incredibly beneficial for an organization, but employees have to want to wear it. As wearables continue to grow, we'll soon see smart watches that just look like watches. The technology will be so integrated and hidden in the device that we may not even be able to tell the difference between a regular object and a smart object. As the appearance improves, more employees will likely turn to wearables.
The market for wearable devices both for consumers and workers is expanding every day. As the market moves and evolves to better meet worker's needs, we'll see wearables have a big effect on how business is done.
Do you use wearables in your organization? If so, how?