Mobile // Mobile Devices
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1/28/2014
11:00 AM
J.P. Gownder
J.P. Gownder
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7 Ways Wearables Will Go To Work

Smartwatches, smartglasses, smart ID badges, and activity trackers will all find a home in the enterprise and change how we do our jobs.

You're forgiven for feeling that wearable technology suffers from a hype bubble. As of today, most wearable tech categories – outside of fitness – boast a high number of products but a low number of buyers.

Looking past the hype, though, wearables represent the next logical step in the mobile revolution. If done right – with vigorous ecosystems of brands, retailers, healthcare providers, and even governments tapping into their value – wearables will create more efficient and seamless experiences for wearers.

[Smartwatches aren't the only promising wearables. Read 10 Wearables To Watch At CES 2014]

Many of these wearable scenarios will come about through a surprising channel – the enterprise. While most of the world focuses on consumer wearables, enterprises might offer an even bigger opportunity. Over the next few years, companies will experiment with wearables in both customer-facing and back-end work scenarios. Here's a look at seven ways wearables will enter the enterprise.

1.  Wearables will become embedded in healthcare systems.
We're all familiar with the consumer fitness devices market. Companies like Fitbit, Nike, Jawbone, and Basis help people track their activity levels (and in some cases, their nutrition and sleep patterns) in the name of health. Those devices are sold to individual consumers, but perhaps a bigger opportunity lies in embedding them into the wider healthcare system. Fitlinxx does just that, working with insurance companies, hospitals, and corporate wellness programs to distribute its activity-tracking wearable along with software and tools to help employees use the devices effectively.

The FitLinxx Pebble activity tracker
The FitLinxx Pebble activity tracker

Doctors have access to the Fitlinxx data, which helps improve the chances of sustained health. And companies and employees that use wearable devices for healthcare may be eligible for lower insurance rates, too – another incentive.

2. Retailers will create innovative in-store experiences.
Imagine walking into a clothing store to find that the sales associate knows your name and greets you with two shirts that might interest you – in your own size and in your favorite colors. Or walking up to a 4K digital display that offers you an on-the-spot promotion.

These scenarios can be achieved through mobile phones interacting with in-store beacons, but they are better executed via smartwatches. Mobile phones can be stolen, or require repeated authentication by the user (even with biometric solutions like those on Apple's iPhone 5S). A smartwatch has the potential – as with Bionym's Nymi band – to create a secure, persistent authentication state so long as it's around the wearer's wrist. In other words, a user doesn't have to repeat sign-ins, enter passwords, or sign her name at point of purchase; she’s known as herself so long as the band remains clasped. And Forrester's data shows that 28% of online U.S. consumers are interested in wrist-based wearables.

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SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
1/30/2014 | 9:04:54 AM
Where I would use wearables
"4. Wearables will revolutionize warehousing and logistics.
Hands-free technologies particularly benefit employees working in warehouses or in logistics positions. Smartglasses allow them to use their hands to lift boxes and packages while gaining access to location data such as where to place the box within a large warehouse, or navigation data for delivering a package."

 

This is something I've been thinking about a lot over the past couple of years.  I know that if I suggested a Google glass like wearable for some warehouse employees there would be talks of spying and micro managing them but if it could be activated with simple voice commands or eye movements this could help greatly for order fulfillment, scanning and taking inventory. It would also cut down on broken hardware since things like barcode scanners get worked hard, banged around and left in odd places.  The glasses would be much less likely to die due to a fall and wouldn't be likely to be placed on the back of a fork truck. 
Susan Fourtané
IW Pick
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
1/30/2014 | 4:13:07 AM
Re: Really?
GAProgrammer, 

"Every article written about wearables (the latest fodder for tech journalists) is about two things - making people lazy and keeping them from doing any thinking, much less critical thinking OR about tracking so much metadata about individuals that it makes Big Brother look like a an idiot."

Are you sure you are blaming the right people for making people lazy and keeping them for doing their own thinking? This article is only reporting on what is already in use, or the wearables that could be in use at some point. 

Reporting about something doesn't mean telling people to be lazy, or keeping them from doing critical thinking. That depends solely on people. You don't have to do, or wear everything other people write about, do you? You can use your rational thinking to know what is good for, or what is not. 

I don't think tech journalists are the people to blame here. 

-Susan
WKash
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WKash,
User Rank: Author
1/29/2014 | 9:20:42 AM
Re: The problem with wearables
On the flip side, look at the Go-Pro crowd and you can see a motivation for where people are willing to wear tech to capture what's important to them. So I think the trick for employers is, if it helps the employee, give them the opportunity to experiment w/out a lot of strings attached.  If it only helps the employer, the motivation wont' be there.

 
Whoopty
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Whoopty,
User Rank: Ninja
1/29/2014 | 7:13:34 AM
Re: The problem with wearables
I'd get onboard with that philosophy. I'd find it very difficult to accept a position at any company that wanted to keep so close an eye on me - it doesn't exactly inspire confidence. 
WKash
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WKash,
User Rank: Author
1/28/2014 | 10:31:09 PM
Re: The problem with wearables
I agree with Tom Claburn...and if I had the sense my employer was tracking my every move, I'd be pretty hesitant about working there.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
1/28/2014 | 4:50:24 PM
The problem with wearables
The problem with wearables is that the data seems to be intended to benefit the service provider rather than the wearer. Take location data. I generally know where I am. And when that's the case, location data is mainly meaningful for someone else. That isn't really a compelling value proposition.
GAProgrammer
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GAProgrammer,
User Rank: Ninja
1/28/2014 | 1:27:19 PM
Really?
"Smartglasses allow them to use their hands to lift boxes and packages while gaining access to location data such as where to place the box within a large warehouse, or navigation data for delivering a package."

Really?

Warehouses are already organized and people know where they are putting a package. They can already navigate large warehouses because of - wait for it! - signs, labels, maps and training. You know, using their brains?!

Every article written about wearables (the latest fodder for tech journalists) is about two things - making people lazy and keeping them from doing any thinking, much less critical thinking OR about tracking so much metadata about individuals that it makes Big Brother look like a an idiot.

This is just another article hyping ideas, 90% of which will never happen due to human nature or legislation. I agree we have to dream and think out of the box, but ideas have to be grounded in reality or, like most tech trends, they never reach the goals set out by the dreamers.
Whoopty
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Whoopty,
User Rank: Ninja
1/28/2014 | 12:17:04 PM
Re: Wearables -- Not All Rosy
There's certainly a lot of potential for abuse with wearables, just like there has been with smartphones though - I wonder whether the average consumer would consider the recent privacy invasion revelations as overshadowing the benefits of increased connectivity?
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
1/28/2014 | 11:49:54 AM
Wearables -- Not All Rosy
J.P. presents many of the potential upsides of wearbles, but it's not all rosy. Track my footsteps around an office to measure collaboration? Good leaders model and inpsire collaboration.

Re the Disney item: Chris Murphy and I both wrote last year about the potential downsides of Disney's Magic Band plans. Personally, I expect they will use this to further segment guests' experiences based on how much you pay.
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