Wearable technology such as Google Glass, Apple's iWatch and Samsung's Galaxy Gear smartwatch is beginning to gain traction with consumers. What seemed too futuristic only a few years ago is now becoming mainstream. But is there a role for wearable tech in business? And more importantly, can your company gain an edge by introducing wearable tech? The short answer is yes; our business IT experts explain.
What are wearable devices?
Wearable computing devices are tiny computers that users can wear on their bodies. Some devices clip to clothing, others are worn as glasses or watches. Some wearable devices are like desktop computers that have been miniaturised, but most wearable devices (particularly the ones you have heard of - Fitbit Flex, Pebble smartwatch, Apple iWatch and Google Glass) link to the Web or to a mobile device via Bluetooth.
Are there business use cases for wearables?
Because wearable computing devices let users go hands-free, there are a lot of ways they could be useful for businesses and other organisations. For emergency personnel and mobile warehouse workers, wearables can provide enhanced mobility and tracking features. Smartglasses could be useful for technicians who need to consult a manual or a set of schematics while performing repairs. Wearables may also be able to remotely monitor or manage equipment, such as machinery on an assembly line, making the workplace safer for employees. Workers who need to wear special suits, such as environmental disaster teams, could have hands-free access to data via smartglasses or a smartwatch.
Other wearable computing devices may be useful in the medical field because they can monitor patients' vitals and send that information to their doctors. Google Glass is supposedly able to give users an augmented reality experience, supplying information on demand. For example, when a Google Glass wearer walks into an airport, the device could show detailed information about his or her flight.
But for office-based settings, any user who needs instant access to important data - members of sales teams, customer service teams or anyone giving a presentation could benefit. Imagine being able to do Q&A with answers showing up in your Google Glass. Imagine customer service teams being able to view the entire order history of a customer on a wearable device while also being able to simultaneously log the customer's current query.
Case in Point
Some companies have already adopted wearables as part of their business strategy. Carnival recently introduced the Ocean Medallion, a token about the size of a 10p piece, designed to replace smartphones, credit cards and other devices once a customer has boarded a ship. The token can be worn on a wristband, chain or carried in a pocket or purse, and is used for everything from checking in on the ship to paying for goods. Guests are able to use the medallion’s mobile app to make reservations or pre-order drinks for a show, and as soon as they approach the location, the token alerts staff so they can be seamlessly checked in and served. The housekeeping team are also alerted when guests are out of the cabin so the cleaning crew can do the servicing.
Making this kind of wearable tech a reality was no small feat however. Carnival installed 122km of cable, 7,000 sensors and 650 readers to enable the Ocean Medallions to work seamlessly throughout the ship.
This is not to say a smaller organisation couldn’t introduce wearable tech with a far less amount of investment. Take Jeffrey Ross, a Cardiff-based estate agent, for example. They have developed their own VR platform to let homebuyers view properties from the comfort of their own sofa. Jeffery Ross takes 3D video footage of its houses, allowing potential buyers to look around the properties using a pair of VR goggles. As more and more people begin to own VR goggles, this will surely give Jeffrey Ross a competitive edge.
The bottom line is: wearable tech is here to stay. It is only a matter of time before many businesses use it as a matter of course. The question is: will yours?
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