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Is Wearable Tech on a One-Way Street in the Workplace?

Wearable Technology

We heard during Deloitte’s TMT Predictions earlier this year that the enterprise business segment is ready to go big on 'cyber-fying' workforces into a state of augmented reality, led by the security, medical and warehousing industries. Enterprise-first will not only be for wearables, but large-scale businesses will also lead in 3D printing applications, the Internet of Things and drone technology.

Whether or not the trend is widely adopted by all business sizes today, the end result is that technology inarguably permeates every area of life. Wearables are just the latest example and it will be interesting to see how people and companies adopt these devices for everyday use.

How will businesses and their employees use wearable devices and related sophisticated technologies? One way might be to connect personal health into the business day. Companies may start to offer fitness trackers to employees with the ultimate goal of cutting down on sick days and healthcare costs. Those companies could also allow employees to opt-in by using their own devices on a BYOD program.

These fitness wearables and connected devices are already common in some people's daily lives. Basic wearable fitness devices can keep track of personalized goals with alerts when you reach your desired number of steps, burn a certain amount of calories and travel a required distance each day. They can also track your sleep patterns to review times of restlessness or see how your deep sleep is trending. Used with a smartphone app you can have access to data you never thought possible even a year or two ago.

At the office, other trackers may alert you when it is time to get out of your chair and move around to avoid getting the dreaded computer posture. More sophisticated wearables can be paired via Bluetooth with your smartphone to receive texts, emails, meeting notifications and other alerts displayed right on your watch touchscreen. This can be very handy when you want to glance down during a meeting without being a distraction at the boardroom table.

In certain work environments hands-free notifications may be life-saving. Consider how emergency room doctors or first responders could increase efficiency and accuracy of treatment given to patients during operations. Wearable devices empower such professionals to communicate with minimal interference.

These devices could also improve safety, collaboration and data collection in unusual physical work environments. The wearables in these situations may be smart glasses for the remote workers in mines who need to receive detailed and relevant visual instructions without having to use their hands. Construction workers are already using wearable technology to see inside piping and walls. Retail workers could use wireless headsets, wearable wrist displays and tech lanyards allowing access to information on the go.

The direction of wearables in the workplace is truly a one-way street, with data showing no signs of slowing down. Gartner, Inc. predicts that by 2017, 30 per cent of smart wearables will be completely unobtrusive to the eye. They also predict that by 2020, consumer data collected from wearable devices will drive 5 percent of sales from the Global 1000. With these data points it will only be a matter of time until connected wearable devices enter every business.

With that in mind, wearables can also improve the customer experience, making businesses more efficient and also creating new business opportunities. The collection of big data from wearable devices will provide insights into user interaction, which is a huge advantage if used effectively. It allows digital marketers to more easily collect information on buying habits and the geographic locations of consumers.

Since you no longer need to open up apps on your smartphone when paired with a wearable device, this allows us to stay better connected at all times. With that connection comes a constant flow of data that could be a valuable opportunity for forward-thinking companies to create new technologies, services, apps and maybe even entirely new industries.

Keep this in mind as you're building your strategies for the coming year. How will your business interact internally, with vendors and with customers? Can you differentiate your business using innovative technological applications? And will you merge onto the wearable highway?

Has your business adopted wearable technology as part of its communications and connections strategy? Tell us in the comments below.

Marney Stapley

Marney is the Vice President, North Forge Technology Exchange. The North Forge Technology Exchange provides access to advanced digital fabrication and prototyping equipment with support from entrepreneurial and innovation communities. In her spare time, she helps to shape one of the world's most respected blogs dedicated entirely to Additive Manufacturing / 3D printing. She is also a volunteer for TEDx Winnipeg as a team member who selects and works with engaging speakers.

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