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Wearables In 2015: 4 Predictions

Smart glasses like Google Glass get put to the test in the enterprise, while smartwatches slowly woo consumers thanks to the Apple Watch.

Wearables At Work: 7 Productivity Apps
Wearables At Work: 7 Productivity Apps
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

If 2014 was the year wearable technologies learned to walk, then 2015 is the year they'll run. And it's inside the enterprise where wearables will pick up speed.

In a Forrester Research survey of 3,000 global technology and business decision-makers, 68% said that wearables are a priority for their company, with 51% calling it a moderate, high, or critical priority.

Consumers haven't been as eager. Yet Forrester analysts say that in the coming year more consumers will turn their lonely eyes (and wrists) to wearables, spurred by the arrival of Apple Watch. Forrester predicts the Apple Watch will pull in 10 million users next year.

[The enterprise is the place for wearables innovation, but challenges loom for CIOs. Read Wearables In The Workplace: 3 Realities.]

So what are the big business and consumer trends that will define wearables in 2015? Consider these four predictions.

1. Smart glasses testing picks up in the workplace.
More CIOs realized in 2014 that the hands-free nature of smart glasses has the potential to improve efficiency for workers who use their bodies and hands. Think: manufacturing-floor technicians, construction workers, and doctors.

You won't find many hospital staffs using Google Glass every day, but the device is being actively tested for quick, hands-free access to patient records and vital signs. Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is the first hospital in the country to roll out Google Glass to an entire department for daily use. The rollout followed four months of pilot testing. At the hospital, an app designed for Glass can read a unique QR code in each patient's room and immediately access the patient's electronic medical record.

Another real-world example worth noting -- referenced in a recent Forrester wearables forecast report -- is Japan Airline's use of Google Glass to help maintenance crews inspect planes on the tarmac. The entire crew captures video and photos using Glass and sends them to a central office where technical safety pros evaluate the airplane's condition.

On the consumer side, Google Glass has created tension for being expensive and an invasion of privacy, but its hands-free capabilities are seen as a business asset in enterprise environments where price, social stigma, and privacy fears are less of a concern.

APX Labs, which created Skylight, a software platform for building business applications for smart glasses like Google Glass and the Epson Moverio, has been in the thick of enterprise adoption. CEO Brian Ballard considers 2014 a turning point.

"We've seen uptake in the field service, logistics, and manufacturing markets," said Ballard. For the first time, he said, companies are coming to APX after buying and testing Google Glass for employees.

"They know Google Glass works for them and are asking us to provide a platform they can build on," he said. "That never happened in 2013, and it bodes well for more testing in 2015 and future enterprise adoption of wearables."

2. Consumers and businesses warm up to smartwatches.
All eyes are on the Apple Watch to see if it energizes consumers the way the iPod and iPhone did.

"FitBit and Samsung have helped incite this growing interest [in wrist-based wearables], but Apple Watch has the best chance of turning wearables into a mass-market category," Forrester's J.P. Gownder wrote in a column for InformationWeek.

Apple certainly has a flair for seizing trends at the right moment, and the timing is right for smartwatches. Even though products from Samsung (Galaxy Gear and Gear 2) and Motorola (Moto 360) have received a lukewarm response due to weak battery life and overreliance on a compatible smartphone, heavyweights like Google (with its Android Wear OS) and Salesforce.com (with its Salesforce Wear developer platform) are still betting on the future of wearable tech.

Yet the fact remains: Consumers haven't been buying up smartwatches. While Apple Watch has the advantage of Apple's marketing muscle and a built-in base of high-end customers, it is not a guaranteed winner, as it still relies on the iPhone for many features, and its battery life is a mystery. (Apple has avoided the subject.)

Nevertheless, a Forrester survey of 4,500 online US adults shows we're getting more curious about the smartwatch form factor in general -- 42% of respondents are interested in buying a wrist-based wearable, up from 28% in 2013. That rated higher than all other body locations offered in the

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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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batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
1/2/2015 | 2:25:01 PM
Re: wearables
@impactnow I think soon we gonna see it everywhere as it grows...
batye
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50%
batye,
User Rank: Ninja
1/2/2015 | 2:23:43 PM
Re: wearables
@StaceyE interesting I trust we only see into of wearable technolog... I think it gonna keep grow rapidly as technology develops...
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
1/2/2015 | 10:08:24 AM
Re: wearables
@staceyE. I think wearables are still make for a niche user population; although, it could be use to get people with weight problems to manage their food and calorie intake.  the problem I issue is to convince people to get the device and use it on a regular basis.
StaceyE
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StaceyE,
User Rank: Ninja
12/31/2014 | 3:06:59 PM
Re: wearables
Hi Pedro

I agree with you that wearable technology had a ton of potential in the healthcare industry. It would be so much easier to monitor a heart patient through technology in his t-shirt than a cumbersome medical device strapped around his wrist...
impactnow
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50%
impactnow,
User Rank: Ninja
12/29/2014 | 4:31:12 PM
Re: wearables

Wearbales are going beyond consumers .I read the NFL was testing wearables on their players during specific games to provide teams with more insight on a particular player and their performance so it's already making its impact there. Wearables are able being used in many offices and factories for employee efficiency benefits.

nomii
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nomii,
User Rank: Ninja
12/24/2014 | 2:05:31 AM
Re: Directions
Technology addicts are still finding the reason to wear a smartwatch whereas the conventional user of the watch will stick to its original form. Usually people gets cautious about their health at certain age when they will be really interested in using smartwatch health feature. Before that, health monitoring would be the least concern of an average user. I still feel it like an addon.
impactnow
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impactnow,
User Rank: Ninja
12/23/2014 | 5:39:40 PM
Options beyond cool

Wearable navigation maybe a great solution for helping the visually impaired navigate to places they need to go—especially if its voice activated. I think wearables can offer great benefits beyond the cool factor to those who are disabled or who suffer from chronic medical conditions.

Stratustician
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Stratustician,
User Rank: Ninja
12/18/2014 | 2:02:50 PM
Re: Directions
Funny enough, this is probably the only feature I really use from my Pebble smartwatch aside from being able to see texts and emails.  It's practical for when I am commuting so I can avoid staring at my phone, but beyond that I still haven't found too much use for it otherwise.  Smart watches are great concepts, but when my desktop email signals and then my phone and watch, it's a little overkill in the notification department.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
12/18/2014 | 1:10:01 PM
Directions
Love the example of a piece of clothing giving you haptic cues for navigating a new place. Hadn't heard that one. Imagine that, combined with google maps, would appeal to many people visting NYC or Boston, for example. You can't be looking at your iphone every two seconds.
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Author
12/18/2014 | 12:58:29 PM
Re: wearables
@PedroG Yes, there's amazing potential there. And having the sensors built into clothes makes them less obtrusive than having them in bulky plastic strapped to one's wrist.
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