The Apple Watch is finally coming. It isn’t the first smartwatch on the market. Pebble, Fitbit, Samsung, Motorola and others launched models before Apple, with limited success. But Apple has a way of ushering in a technology era where others failed. And that means we’ll likely be seeing lots more full-featured wearables coming to market.
38 percent of companies surveyed believe today’s consumer wearables aren’t ready for the enterprise. But Gartner forecasts smartglasses alone will save companies in industries from healthcare to manufacturing over $1 billion as soon as 2017. That’s just two years away.
Beyond the “cool” factor, what do wearables have in store for the enterprise?
Getting down to business
An Accenture report points out that the real driver of wearable technology will be business.
Why? As consumers, we are image-conscious and price-sensitive. We’re more likely to adopt something if it’s “cool” or looks like a fashion accessory, especially once the technology becomes widespread and price drops to reasonable levels.
Business, on the other hand, has more practical concerns. The promise of wearables isn’t so much about form-factor and aesthetics. It’s about getting the job done better, faster, at a lower cost – and with a competitive advantage.
How can a wrist device with a tiny screen improve worker productivity, yet not be a distraction?
Productivity at work
Think of wearables as always-on devices that connect your employees to a larger computing environment.
For the nearly 40 million deskless workers in the US, wearables can deliver information that otherwise would require a laptop or a smartphone. Watches can already display time- and context-specific data, such as appointment reminders, alerts, and text messages.
These examples, though, are mere extensions of existing desktop, tablet and smartphone applications. Most field employees today already carry one or more of these devices, but even smartphones don’t fit all situations.
Look, boss. No hands!
Imagine a field technician, tasked with repairing a pump in tight quarters. Or an auto mechanic under your car in a garage.
Instead of pulling out a phone for instructions, a flick of the wrist could pull up online tutorials or schematics – leaving both hands free. A similar possibility exists with the soon-to-come smartglasses. The tech could view diagrams or detailed instructions through the glasses, all the while still looking at the part to be repaired.
Or imagine a surgeon performing a delicate, time-critical operation. When every second counts, the surgeon could monitor the patient’s vital signs without so much as a turn of his head.
Now imagine this approach applied to a myriad of tasks, in hundreds of different industries, and the potential impact becomes clear.
Are we there yet?
Is business ready to reap all these benefits yet? Not quite.
Enterprise office integration between smartwatches and smartphones is already here. But messaging, notifications and even image sharing are only the first step. The real business value is yet to come.
Each industry has unique needs, so one size won’t fit all. Developers are creating industry-specific apps for wearables at a lightning pace. Some will be commercially available, while others will give individual companies a proprietary edge.
Do you plan to incorporate wearables into your business strategy? If not, consider that 2017 – and all those savings – is just around the corner.