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Does Wearable Tech Have A Place In The Enterprise?

This week saw the first Pebble smartwatches selling online. Sony, Acer, Google, Apple, Foxconn and Samsung are all working on their own versions. The era of wearable tech is within sight.

According to Juniper research, almost 70 million smart wearable devices will be sold in 2017, and the market will be worth more than $1.5 billion by 2014. ST Liew, president of Acer's smartphone group, told Pocket-Lint "We are looking at wearable, I think every consumer company should be looking at wearable.” While that might be true, should enterprises be doing the same?

Right now wearable tech is mostly for sporty types; heart rate monitors, fancy pedometers, HUD for skiers etc. But soon the market will be flooded with a tidal wave of smartwatches and Google Glass. And while this will no doubt affect how companies collect user data, develop apps and interact with consumers, will we be seeing workers around the office or datacenter wearing them?


Rose-Tinted Google glass?

Smartwatches probably won’t be essential to any enterprise mobility program, merely a notification tool with additional security pains to account for. But despite being banned in many places before it’s even released, Google Glass is getting plenty of people excited.

So far most of it has been on the consumer side of things. Some doubt whether it could ever be used for the enterprise, while others think it’s the best thing since sliced bread (or the Cloud at least). Chris Hazelton of 451 Research told Computerworld it would be the next step in Mobility & BYOD trends, which would eventually help drive its acceptance.

Fiberlink have jumped on board early, offering its MaaS360 platform to IT admins through the device, and said that since most EMM and MDM platforms support Android already, much of the hard work is already done. Meanwhile Dito, a company that provides services for Google applications, have promised enterprise apps for Glass  (AKA Glassware) by late 2013/early 2014. The company’s co-founder, Dan McNelis, explained at the E2 conference that one of its clients was looking at building information modelling, or BIM, applications, which could help construction workers on site check schematics and that everything was in the write place/angle.

Along with construction, Glass has been cited as a hands-free tool for utility workers while dealing with high voltage, or as a potential HUD for pilots, and possibly even real-time polling.

Though facial recognition might be banned, the core concept of early Glassware apps MedRef - brining up a person’s medical records instantly - highlights the potential wearable gear has within the healthcare industry. Whether it’s tracking nurses with RTLS (Real-Time Location Systems) or better diagnosis and delivery methods, or even live from the operating table, hospitals could be wearable tech’s first home outside the sports ground.

It’s not just glasses and watches that are entering the enterprise. A smart bracelet for workers at risk of being kidnapped has been developed, sending pre-set warnings to social media and other workers in the area, while Motorola has developed some heavy duty engineering gear more tailored towards their needs and is also customizable. A new smartring has been developed by Chinese company  Geak, which has great potential for being a very useful security/authentication tool. I can see far more of a market for specially tailored wearable tech arising once the bluster over Glass & smartwatches has died down.

So does wearable tech have a place in business, or is it just another consumer procrastination device? I think some do, especially if they’ve been custom-made for the purpose. But I doubt we’ll be seeing an office full of smart this and wearable that.The future success of the likes of Google Glass or any number of future smartwatches will depend entirely on the quality of the hardware & apps provided, and the imagination of those using them.

 I also agree with Hazelton’s view that BYOWD (Bring-Your-Own-Wearable-Device) will be an important factor.

What do you think? Does wearable tech have a future in the enterprise?

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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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