The How and Why of Wearables at Work

The way we live and engage with technology has been forever changed by the impact of wearables. While there have been some early adopters in certain industries — manufacturing, healthcare, and law enforcement, among others — wearable technology has primarily been consumer-focused to this point: smart glasses, shirts, cameras, and jewelry. But slowly and surely, wearable computers are making their way into the workplace.

intel-smartwatch.jpgWearables at Work: “Odd, Yet Intriguing”

IT decision makers need to keep their ears open. Al Sacco recently wrote on, “In fact, some experts think the true potential of wearable tech, the future of these odd yet intriguing gadgets, lies in enterprise or business use…Experts say smart CIOs and IT managers should be proactive in preparing for corporate wearables but also wary of embracing novel and untested devices.”

What Makes a Wearable Device Right for an Enterprise?

Blue Hill Research analyst James Haight recently interviewed Steve Holmes, vice president of smart device innovation at Intel, on wearables and the Internet of Things. Holmes highlighted three unique advantages to wearables, which might help CIOs avoid products that aren’t going to add long-term value:

  1. Persistence. They can be worn all the time (think watches, bracelets, glasses) allowing the user to measure things continuously.
  2. Intimacy. They can pick up information that remote devices cannot (such as heart rate).
  3. Immediacy. There is no need to open a computer or take out a phone to receive information.

Device-Enabled Freedom

Devices with these three assets enable apps to be part of a user’s daily life on demand without being disruptive. Enterprise-based wearables have the capacity to change the way employees interact with both their workspace and colleagues. There is potential for advancement in productivity and freedom by allowing employees to break away from their desks and mobile devices to engage in a whole new way, via voice commands, gestures, and natural movement. According to Karen Barrett at BizTech Magazine, “At the shallow end, wearables can enhance productivity by keeping employees connected. Going to a deeper level, hands-free devices that respond to voice commands and employ built-in cameras will transform the workplace for many professionals.”

Advancements in Workplace Wearables

Our Make It Wearable campaign invited designers from around the world to create prototypes for a chance to shape the future of wearables using Edison technology.

One of the 10 finalists and most enterprise-friendly concept was Blocks, an open source modular smart watch that allows users to customize their experience. By design, these blocks link to one another and are each embedded with electronics that carry out a different function. This design allows the user to interchange blocks as new ones are developed or upgraded, as opposed to buying a new smart watch when new functions are introduced.

While there are still problems to overcome with early wearable technology — security, cost, engagement, and privacy — innovators are challenging our perception of what wearable technology can be by creating more connectivity, integration, and interaction between the user and wearable. Through immediacy, intimacy, and persistence, wearables will offer the promise of time and money savings through real-time solutions.

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