Technology continues to advance at high speed, aligning quicker than ever with the sci-fi future we see in the movies. Wearable technology, specifically, is enjoying widespread popularity, serving as an effortless tool for accessing information in real-time.
Beyond smartphones, tablets, and laptops, the Internet of Things – that is, the increasing trend of everyday devices being connected to the internet – has expanded to include such wearable devices as watches, bands, and smart badges. And while the term wearables are only a few years old, its popularity shows how fast the concept is gaining ground.
According to a report on wearables from the International Data Corporation (IDC), shipments of wearable devices are projected to increase to 101.9 million by the end of 2016, a 29% rate of growth over 2015. And IDC anticipates as many as 213.6 million units shipped by 2020.
More and more, technology permeates every area of life. The shipping numbers noted above on wearables such as the Apple Watch or Fitbit are an indication that these components are readily adopted by people for everyday use. The trend now, however, is these objects weaving their way into a prominent place not only with consumers but within the workplace.
In fact, as components become smaller and more affordable and communications and connectivity continue to improve, companies will be unable to ignore the benefits of incorporating wearables as part of the way they do business.
The two most recognizable reasons companies should embrace wearables are summarized by a report by Human Cloud at Work: “Experts from Goldsmiths, University of London, have found that wearable tech in the workplace increases productivity by as much as 8.5%. Further, findings show that wearing wearable technologies increases employee satisfaction by 3.5%.”
Additionally, a 2015 Salesforce research survey showed that 79% of early adopters – businesses that have already implemented varying uses of wearables – agree that wearables are or will be strategic to their company’s future success.
Seventy-six percent report improvements in business performance since implementing wearable devices in the workplace, and 86% plan to increase wearable technology spend during the next 12 months. The efficiency and effectiveness of wearables can’t be ignored.
So, how will companies and their employees use and benefit from wearable technology? Whatever the device – it could be body-mounted displays or sensor-embedded clothing and accessories – it is most likely companies will find the largest benefits in the areas of health care costs, employee safety, and productivity.
Today’s world has businesses shoveling thousands of dollars a month to cover their employees’ health-care insurance policies. If a company is interested in mitigating those costs, wearable technology could be the answer. By providing wearables to their employees (or allowing them to opt in with their own devices) and implementing smart notifications and activity trackers into an employee wellness program, employees are incentivized to adopt healthier habits and lifestyles, thus helping companies control and curb escalating health care costs.
Through a wide variety of sensors, data can be used to prevent excessive exposure to different temperatures, radiation levels, noise, or toxic gases, using sensor tags for temperature, humidity, noise or light measurements. Gases can be detected using personal sensors enabled using Wifi or Bluetooth low energy sensors.
For example, to combat heat stress, a steel company is using the IBM Employee Wellness and Safety Solution to collect data from various sensors that continuously monitor the worker’s skin body temperature, heart rate, galvanic skin response and level of activity, correlated with sensor data for ambient temperature and humidity. The solution then enables the company to provide personalized safety guidelines to each individual employee, advising them to take a 10-minute break in the shade if temperatures rise to unsafe levels.
Whether it’s as simple as having the freedom to type notes on a lecture or needing both hands available for a complex experiment, the ability to visually or audibly receive instructions and guidance through a task could offer huge strides toward improved productivity.
Each company needs to examine their specific needs and culture to determine how wearables will best fold into their success. While still in an early stage, the presence of wearables in the workplace – and their capabilities – will grow exponentially in the coming months and years.
When it’s time for your company to climb aboard the wearable train, consider how your company could benefit from what the world of wearable technology offers, and how you can most effectively incorporate them into your business.