The tech world has been buzzing about wearables these days and the chatter is only going to grow. It started with tabs and mobile phones being added to the list of devices that can access office platforms, but now smart wearable electronic gadgets like bands, bracelets, glasses, and watches could also be part of a working day. Little by little, wearables are slowly being integrated into our personal and work life.
The thinking behind adding wearables to the devices that we use at work is to use technology to efficiently and successfully complete tasks. But right now, wearables are more or less only delivering discrete notifications or monitoring the body by using apps running on a smartphone. So this new technology is still at its infancy.
The smart wearable market revenue is expected to rise to $6.3 billion dollars by the beginning of 2021 (CAGR of 140% from $14 million – 2013). The use of wearables in corporate enterprises is still quite low and represents only 1% of the market share which is estimated to rise to approximately 17% by 2020.
Smartphones are now looked upon as a distraction at work. However, wearables enable information to be communicated easily on a device like a smart watch, at a glance. As a result, productivity can increase as there won’t be a need to unlock a phone over a 100 times a day. Further, there are also gesture controlled devices that can increase productivity, but at the moment, these devices still have far to go to better engage the user and provide any real value.
In the near future, what will drive growth in the wearable market will be smart watches and fitness devices. Smart watches are the most expensive wearables out there, but they are perceived to be offer more functionality (which makes it popular). Fitness bands on the other hand have poor battery life and lack enough sensors making it less efficient.
Although current industry gossip only focus on the small devices, I believe that Virtual Reality devices like the Oculus Rift will also have a significant impact in the workplace. Although it falls under the same smart wearables category, VR devices offer something totally different by creating otherworldly three dimensional auditory visual experiences.
However the wearable market does not stop there, the potential seems to be endless as new entrants in the market introduce products like smart jewellery and accessories. Smart jewellery like pendants, rings, and earrings have a lot of potential and investment. Start-ups like Kovert Designs are pioneers in this segment, but you can expect many others to follow.
There are other companies like Arc Pendant which caters to a unique market segment. Its voice activated haptic technology enables cyclists to safely navigate streets without using a smartphone which will significantly enhance the courier services. It’s a good looking device that was specifically designed for men and was created to be worn under your clothes. What makes this device unique is that the battery lasts for a month and it is also water resistant.
For women, there’s Bellabeat LEAF which is a device that monitors stress levels, menstrual cycles, and sleep patterns. It can also give women advice during ovulation periods. This device can be worn as a clip, pendant, or bracelet and looks like a leaf. However, it’s unknown how this device can help a woman at work.
Ear-o-Smart is another new entrant that’s developing useful technology in particular for women who wear earrings. This smart device (which is a single earring) is specifically designed to track activity, heart-rate, and calories burned. Again, other than health and fitness, this device doesn’t add much value to the workplace.
Wearables at the Workplace
Wearables are not new to the UK, Tesco has been using wearable technology in their warehouses to track orders and increase productivity for a few years. They did this by getting staff to wear smart armbands to automatically track goods that are being transported. This also enabled managers to monitor and make sure that the correct order was being filled as well as estimate completion times. The sensors in the armband are also able to monitor employee fatigue allowing management to take the necessary precautions to avoid accidents.
In North America, the U.S. division of BP gave 25,000 employees Fitbits in 2013 to keep track of their physical activity in exchange for points which would have a direct impact on the cost of their healthcare.
Armbands are proving to be a good choice as the sensors help one become more efficient when performing staff duties. Because the sensors are able to analyse time and motion, managers are provided with accurate data about the users to increase productivity.
As a result, it is clear that these devices can assist workers to increase multitasking and get more done during the day. These devices along with smart eyewear like the Google Glass can increase efficiency by allowing an employee to interact with the real and virtual world simultaneously. Bracelets on the other hand seem destined for the fitness and health sectors.
Looking at the market today, it’s plain to see that this technology is specialised and it only caters to a market subset. Most of the smart devices out there were developed to compliment smartphones and tablet applications. As a result, it is difficult to predict what the future holds for smart wearables.
The wearable industry has a long way to go before mass adoption. Wearables are still in an infant stage of the lifecycle and need to be improved further before they are able to accurately interpret results. Until then, for the most part, they will be a novelty item. But you can expect this to change over the next couple of years.
The potential of wearable technology is obvious, so you can bet that these devices are here to stay. But before everyone has them, companies need to address major security issues with these devices. It is imperative for manufacturers to work a lot harder to ensure that privacy is maintained in order to increase adoption.