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Top Tips: The do's and don'ts of today's wearable devices

05-08-2015-the-dos-and-donts-of-todays-wearable-devicesSamuel Mueller is the CEO and co-founder of Scandit and is responsible for overall strategic direction, marketing, sales and business development. Prior to Scandit, Samuel was a management consultant and project leader for multinational companies such as Swiss Airlines, Swiss Re and IBM as well as a corporate researcher at the renowned IBM Zurich Research Lab. While at IBM, Samuel was awarded an IBM Research Division Award and a total of three IBM Invention Achievement Awards. He has authored numerous patent applications and has published his research results in leading conferences and journals.

Samuel shares his do’s and don’ts of today’s wearables.

Wearables of so many kinds, from smart watches and connected glasses to smart contact lenses, are increasingly making an impression in the mass market. These new devices are expected to be the next big technology trend, capable of running apps that will enable both consumers and employees to leave their smartphones at home, buy products or interact with them through the blink of an eye or a verbal prompt.

Much marketing hype has been put behind wearables, in particular smartwatches, but in line with the consumerisation of business products, it is the applications for employees that are most interesting. And it is more than likely that we will see wearables making a huge impact on industries as wide ranging as retail, logistics, manufacturing and the supply chain.   

Already Google Glass is being used for hands-free order commissioning in warehouses, decentralised fulfilment centres or at store locations. Technicians in field service applications are also using Glass or similar devices to access manuals, machine parts information or to share their view with more experienced colleagues via ‘eye sharing’.

Don’t expect wearables to gain mass market adoption yet – Smart watches have started to gain relevance in the consumer market, but smart glasses only have limited distribution and are not ready for many consumer applications at the moment. Google Glass technology needs to be further miniaturised and adopted by glasses brands, such as Ray-Ban or Warby Parker in order to gain broader consumer adoption. They could embed the Google Glass technology platform in their products, combining the computing power of Glass with a stylish design that would appeal to a mass-market consumer base. This would then open up opportunities for consumer-facing applications to be developed for wearables, accessible through normal glasses or, ultimately, through contact lenses embedded with smart glass technology.

Keep an eye out for smartwatch applications first - Consumer-facing applications, particularly in the leisure and retail markets, such as fitness tracking, mobile shopping or in-store self-scanning are already being developed for smart watches like Samsung’s Galaxy Gear or Motorola’s Moto 360. Smartwatches are unobtrusive and easy to wear and operate, which is allowing them to have an impact on the market. The arrival of the much heralded AppleWatch will also prompt an increase in consumer adoption and generate interesting consumer-facing retail applications in the near term.

Consider wearables as a means to bring more futuristic applications to life - Wearables do have a part to play in interesting new applications such as augmented reality (AR). A typical scenario might be customers looking for an item of furniture and being able to visualise this in their virtual living room. In the retail market selected concept store locations are already offering this service. If the AR experience is to be rolled out to large audiences, however, retailers will depend on large-scale consumer adoption of smart glasses such as Moverio or Google Glass.  

Introduce Google Glass for powerful assistance behind-the-scenes – The design of Google Glass lends itself so well to the hands-free user experience and only needs to be made available to a small number of employees, which makes it ideal for procurement, warehouse selection and retail inventory. This is where Glass is showing how much power wearables will have to redefine the way that the supply chain and retail industries work. One good example is in mobile order fulfilment, which can be made more efficient by utilising barcode scanning running on Glass. A ‘pick-by-vision’ approach allows the warehouse or stock-room employee to retrieve a pick list, move through the warehouse to the proper bin locations – via the most efficient path as indicated on the heads-up display – and scan each item on the list using Glass to verify the picks before collecting all the products and making them ready for dispatch.

Don’t launch MPoS until the technology has been miniatuarised - Mobile Point of Sale (MPoS), which allows consumers to pay merchants for their goods or services from anywhere in their location, is not so easily enabled through today’s wearables.  The screens on smart watches are too small and checking out a customer through Google Glass (e.g. by recognising the customer’s face and automatically scanning the customer’s credit card information) in most cases would be rather awkward. For wearable MPoS to become feasible different form factors may be required.

As more realistic and user-friendly apps for wearables come to market, consumer adoption will increase. It is early days, but before long we will see consumers referencing their shopping lists on their smartwatches and warehouse staff checking stock inventories using Google Glass. Many industries are starting to realise the cost benefits and efficiencies that this new technology trend will deliver behind the scenes, and as every new wearable device or device update appears, we move nearer and nearer to mass market adoption and a flurry of consumer-facing applications.

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