Wearable Tech & The B2B Landscape

Businesses are discovering opportunities to utilize wearables to enhance core business processes, but what are the benefits of wearable tech?

Unlike many evolutions in technology where consumers lead the way in adoption, wearable technology is being adopted by B2B (business-to-business) enterprises at startling rates. While consumers are seeing little value beyond the novelty of new, smaller screens, businesses are discovering opportunities to utilize this disruptive technology to enhance core business processes. From supporting emergency workers during complex rescues to streamlining claims processing, the value of wearable technologies is much greater than seeing your email pop up on your watch screen, and businesses are racing to realize the financial benefits.

The Devices

While new devices are continuing to enter the market, three major categories currently dominate the wearable device landscape:

· Eyewear: Custom lenses/frames, masks and visors that display email, video and data - most operated completely hands free - are emerging as the most innovative and engaging of the wearable devices. They allow users to view data, images and content in a contextual, projected manner, allowing two-way interaction and even feeding back of images and video to remote users.

· Bracelets and Watches: Used for both displaying and tracking data, some of these bracelets and watch technologies collect vital signs, geographic location and physical gestures, while others are serving as a mini screen on the users wrist, providing real-time video, data and consumable content.

· “Activated” Products: Leveraging tools such as Bluetooth and real-time location tracking, traditional devices such as glucose machines, jackets and sensors are now conduits of rich information on how an individual is using the product, not merely packaging or clothing.

Application within Industry

Wearable devices are unique not only in the physical makeup, but in the software applications that are built to deliver the experience. Each industry has a unique opportunity for pioneers to arise in developing the tools and services necessary to improve daily efficiency.

· Safety, Security and Military: From teams seeing maps of buildings they are entering to identifying hot zones for firefighters and rescue teams, real time streaming of images and video gives context and detail to help emergency workers. Infrared detection in eyewear is helping rescuers find people in trauma zones and disasters.

· Healthcare: For medical workers in remote locations, eyewear is helping in remote assessment and diagnostic of patients. Activated products, from skin patches to medical delivery devices are sharing information with medical providers and caregivers, enabling proactive alerting of adverse medical events.

· Insurance: By capturing images, documentation and consent in real time, the speed of processing claims and inspections of everything from vehicles to houses is becoming a differentiator in the market.

As wearable technologies evolve from cutting edge, niche solutions to more mass-market acceptance, five key factors will drive success and adoption:

Data Security: With every new technology comes new security considerations. When dealing with more personal interactions (such as personal health information or financial data), users may be hesitant in utilizing the features that make these devices most successful, even in a B2B setting. Organizations will need to develop a level of trust and security consistent with their other channels of interaction.

Ease of Use: There are always early adopters that learn the ins and outs of these devices and pave the way for the masses. For devices to gain mass appeal, they need to have a short learning curve. Innovators will find ways to make the complex simple, using simple swipes, gestures and voice commands to execute even the most complex interactions.

Integration with Existing Technology: Similar to the growing tablet market, users are demanding a seamless experience across their screen sizes, no matter where they are. Wearables add a whole new dimension to this, as small screen size pushes limits and, with the instance of eyewear, screens are almost non-existent. To maintain the utility and appeal of technology that workers already have in place, wearables need to deliver upon an existing level of service and brand experience, not force users to learn even more systems or interfaces.

Safety: Depending on the industry and type of work that an employee is conducting, wearable technology may be a safety concern if proactive training is not provided. There is potential in using the technology to improve the efficiencies of many laborers and factory workers but a business disruption may go from an annoyance or distraction to a potentially life threatening situation. There are many disruptions as it is with a connected worker, adding a new piece of technology into the mix adds another layer of potential distractions.

The need for wearable devices is going to be defined by the companies that recognize how they can be utilized for their business. Early pioneers may fail at the first attempt, but the initial investments are what will spark growth and innovation.


Andrea Fishman an Advisory principal with PwC’s BGT Digital Experience Solutions