How wearables will change the enterprise landscape

If the buzz at CES and coverage in the mainstream media are to be believed, 2014 could be the first true “year of wearable tech.” Most of the major announcements in the hardware field have come from wearable tech — whether that’s Samsungs new, improved and expanded line of watches, the mainstream adoption of Google Glass, upgraded fitness bands from FitBit or Jawbone, or the long-fabled iWatch from Apple, wearable is all the rage right now. There are tons of cool features and functionalities that these devices can bring to our lives as consumers if the devices’ execution is up to par. That being said, one of the bigger stories within the growth of wearable tech is how these wunder-devices can affect the enterprise space.

Forrester sees wearables in more of a beta stage from now until 2016 as vendors perfect different hardware custom-built for specific industries; the first two industries, according to Forrester, will be public safety and healthcare.

Forrester goes on to state that developer ecosystems for wearables will begin to mature in 2017 and apps, back-end software and services for enterprises will become readily available through 2019. By 2020, wearable technology will be common within many organizations — and in the following four years, wearables will become instrumental to how many employees do their job.

I agree with Forrester that public safety and healthcare will be two of the first enterprise movers into wearable tech integration, but I think Forreseter’s timetable is a little off. If you think about the iPhone and how long it took for that platform to become commonplace in the enterprise field, it certainly was not five to nine years in the making. Likewise, I think that the right piece of hardware will not take that long to reach significant enterprise market penetration. It just takes the right piece of tech, and my money is on Apple getting it right and releasing it within the next year. If that happens, the timetable for enterprise adoption will quicken dramatically.

On the flip side of the “wearables in enterprise” conversation is how does your enterprise interact with customers who are wearing tech themselves? Think of the retail industry for example… Wouldn’t you love to know which customers were walking around your store, what they’ve purchased before, what deals they generally respond to, etc. Now, if you have iBeacons installed in your store, you can push deals, specials, or in-store directions to his or her favorite items within the store to the wearable tech.

The travel industry would love an influx of wearables because they could cut down on wait times, security lines, boarding pass printing, etc. Most second or third generation wearables do/will feature biometric security (like fingerprint identification) that is far stronger than password protection or standard encryption protocols. As such, your wearable can be paired to you specifically and can then be used to verify boarding passes, cross-reference identification data, etc. all on the fly.

HR departments across the corporate world could utilize wearables to institute and promote corporate wellness plans. If you gave employees a stipend for their healthcare coverage payments based on how much they exercised, you could monitor and track their progress based on the data from a wearable fitness monitor. You could push notifications or motivational messages to them to help them reach their goals. This could result in: major savings on corporate healthcare premiums, happier employees, a more productive workforce, higher overall job satisfaction, etc.

These are just a few of the possible uses for wearable technology across industry verticals. With the current crop of wearables out there right now, I don’t see enterprise adoption exceeding Forrester’s predictions. But, if one of the major hardware players can develop a truly stellar piece of tech (I’m looking at you, Apple), then the pace of enterprise adoption will most certainly speed up dramatically. Either way, it’s a growing trend enterprises should keep their eyes on. You never know what new wearable feature or functionality could be a game changer for your business.

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