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9/22/2014
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Wearables In The Workplace: 3 Realities

Wearables innovation will happen first in the enterprise, but CIOs should brace themselves for security and integration challenges.

Internet Of Things: 8 Pioneering Ideas
Internet Of Things: 8 Pioneering Ideas
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Consumers may be giddy about the Apple Watch and the augmented reality possibilities of smartglasses. But if you really want to see wearable tech in action … you need to go to work.               

Wearables are on track to evolve in the opposite direction of the consumer-driven smartphone: from the enterprise outward, according to industry analysts and consultants.

[Epson, Jawbone, and Oculus join the Salesforce Wear ecosystem. Read Salesforce.com Adds Devices To Wearables Platform.]

"Wearables offer very specific solutions to specific problems -- which is not the right model for consumer adoption, but works well for enterprises," said J.P. Gownder, VP and principal analyst at Forrester Research.

Doctors are trialing Google Glass to access a patient's vital signs without taking their eyes away from the procedure. Service technicians on top of a wind turbine are testing smartglasses to access work orders and take photos while keeping their hands free. In potentially dangerous areas like construction sites, smartwatches are being tested to monitor heart rates and provide safety and location-based alerts.

These are not just time-savers. There are serious profits to be made when wearables improve how workers do their jobs. In fact, Gartner forecasts that the use of Google Glass and other smartglasses will help add more than $1 billion per year to company profits by 2017.

(Source: Accenture)
(Source: Accenture)

Accenture CTO Paul Daugherty, who works closely with Accenture's Technology Labs to develop wearables applications, said in an interview with InformationWeek that the first wave of employees to use wearables are mobile workers who use their bodies and hands. Think: manufacturing floor technicians, doctors, police, and construction workers.

"Wearables speak to a shift in the enterprise to the experience of individual workers, their productivity, and their hands-free access to specific information," said Daugherty.

Yet such a technological and human behavior shift comes with hard truths about choosing the right wearables for your business and integrating them within enterprise systems. Here are three realities CIOs should bear in mind when deploying wearables, according to a recent Accenture research report.

Wearables are not stand-alone products

Wearables will be just as much a part of the IT infrastructure as tablets, smartphones, and desktops, and enterprises need to write APIs that integrate wearables with ERP, CRM, and work order management systems.

Such integration is nothing to sneeze at and will include, "allocating budget for wearables hardware and app development; retraining staff to handle management of wearable devices and apps, and hiring wearables expertise as needed; and establishing governance across the business to ensure continuity."

Battery life and WiFi connectivity are big issues
One of the trade-offs with wearables is that companies will need to invest in the expansion of wireless networks to give remote workers more WiFi connectivity. The battery life of wearables will be another critical issue. Most wearable devices offer hours of occasional use and about an hour of intense use before needing a recharge.

Employees will have to adjust to using wearables on an as-needed basis or get in the habit of swapping out devices part-way through a shift.

Accenture offers this advice on managing wearable power consumption:

"Enterprises can use battery hibernation and additional battery packs, turning off chip sets when not in use, disabling WiFi connections in certain areas, or employing geofences to limit usage in sensitive areas."

Wearable devices will intensify security and privacy concerns
A smartwatch will just be another device IT groups will have to secure as they would any other mobile device. Accenture recommends that companies expand official security measures to protect against data leaks when wearables are connected to the corporate network.

CIOs will also have to appease employee privacy concerns about being monitored. The fact is that wearables can capture personal information on people's habits, behavior, and health, as well as enterprise information that's deemed intellectual property. Companies should adjust data privacy policies for use of wearables within corporate boundaries.

For instance, geofences can be used to disable wearables in off-limits areas like bathrooms and research labs.

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Shane O'Neill is Managing Editor for InformationWeek. Prior to joining InformationWeek, he served in various roles at CIO.com, most notably as assistant managing editor and senior writer covering Microsoft. He has also been an editor and writer at eWeek and TechTarget. ... View Full Bio

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SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
9/29/2014 | 7:56:18 AM
Re: Wearables In The Workplace: 3 Realities
Just for clarification my point was that even though the technology already exists, when wearables become more popular, their use is going to be more obvious and also more questionable.  When 20 people walk into a room, silence their phones and set them on a table in front of them you have an expectation that those phones are sitting there idle but if one person walks in with a camera strapped to their head via Google Glass the assumption will be that it is on and recording.
SunitaT0
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SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
9/28/2014 | 2:33:45 PM
Re: Wearables In The Workplace: 3 Realities
@SaneIT: It really brings to mind the questions one could do with wearables. Even without wearables there can be employees who can be recording meeting sessions on their smartphone directly to a cloud for analyzing and this would not leave any trace. More technology equals more complexity.
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
9/24/2014 | 7:40:27 AM
Re: Wearables In The Workplace: 3 Realities
I think it will be less about cost and more about perceived privacy in many cases.  The article pointed out some great examples where accessing information real time without digging around through a clip board or on a laptop would be beneficial, but I don't expect to see something like Glass being widely accepted in your weekly staff meeting.  At this point it is the fact that the devices are obvious, out of the ordinary and people will assume the worst.  While I could be recording the entire meeting on my phone people don't assume that because they carry their phone around everywhere too.  If you want to know how something like Glass is going to go over in your environment lay your smartphone on the conference table with a voice recording app running.
Broadway0474
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Broadway0474,
User Rank: Ninja
9/24/2014 | 12:30:40 AM
Re: Utility over fashion
Michael, for consumers, I wonder about the fashion over functionality argument. Sure, an iPhone is beautiful on its own, but most people protect it in either bulky, ugly cases, or cheesey, cheap ones. Or worse, they carry it in some sort of leather holster on their belt. Hardly fashionable. Far more utilitarian. 
zaious
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zaious,
User Rank: Ninja
9/23/2014 | 11:59:53 PM
Re: Bulky batteries
Progress in the battery front is not that rapid. That also depends on Lithium (which is not rare, but not extremely abundant, too). Devices could be even slimmer if the batteries were keeping pace with improvements in other fronts. However, the designers are trying their best to limit the power consumptions in wearables/mobile devices. 
zerox203
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zerox203,
User Rank: Ninja
9/22/2014 | 10:33:34 PM
Re: Wearables In The Workplace: 3 Realities
Don't get wrong - as someone who grew up as a die-hard sci-fi geek, wearables have endless appeal to me and bring us that much closer to a future that seemed like fiction not too long ago. That being said, there still seem to be far too many hurdles for this to become a broadley adopted technology. Even the argument that niche businesses will foot the bill for the high entry barrier, which will in turn bring it down for the rest of us, leaves me with some reservations. At the end of the day, they still need to pay for themselves or it's a no-go, and it seems like there still might be enough obstacles for them not to.

You mention the short battery life, Shane. This seems like it could be a very serious dealbreaker in a lot of situations. If we're relying on businesses where extreme time or safety concerns are what make these devices invaluable, then the need to limit their use or carry around extra peripherals puts quite a damper on that. The high upfront cost means they're only worth purchasing for highly-paid employees (in a sense), that makes the seemingly great case for factory or warehouse floors suddenly that much more niche. Finally, the need for them to be so specialied (like for medical uses), again because of that upfront cost, makes it that much more risky and complex for those looking to be manufacturers of these devices. Still seems like we're a ways off.
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
9/22/2014 | 7:19:19 PM
Re: Bulky batteries
Good point Dave. Battery life will be an issue. I think in most enterprise cases, smartwatches or smartglasses will be used in spurts for specific hands-free tasks -- rather than be in constant use. But regardless, battery life and recharges will be nagging sources of worry, and could off-set the benefits of wearables.
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
9/22/2014 | 6:41:28 PM
Bulky batteries
Never mind the fashion statement: if wearables users have to carry around extra battery packs or continually plug in to recharge, wearables won't be fashionable for either work or personal use for some time to come.
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
9/22/2014 | 6:17:05 PM
Re: Utility over fashion
We've seen some very specific, custom-made wearables from technology innovators such as UPS, for use in package sorting, with UPS co-developing a custom, wearable scanner-printer several years ago with HP. But UPS is a company willing to blaze the trail and make a custom gadget, like it did with mobile handhelds for drivers.

But most companies aren't UPS when it comes to custom hardware. For the kind of mass-market industrial uses like this, there needs to be some standard devices that companies can adapt to their needs -- like Glass, or like an Apple or Android watch. Companies would like disposable, consumer-ish hardware, packed with very task-specific hardware.   
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
9/22/2014 | 4:25:38 PM
Re: Utility over fashion
I'll be interested to see how the Myo gesture-controller armband from Thalmic Labs does. It's a wearable that actually looks useful, as opposed to redundantly broadcasting notifications and doing location tracking.
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