The rise of wearable technology in business is just getting started and is predicted to revolutionise the workplace over the next decade. With expansive application across a wide range of industries and job roles, wearables will add a new element to our interpersonal relationships by extending the reach and impact of the way in which we communicate as well as sharing details about ourselves in new ways regardless of distance.The constant connectivity of wearable devices builds a unique portrait of the wearers and creates an ongoing connection between people, creating a simulation of proximity, changing the way we interact with each other and enabling entirely new ways of communication.
While mass adoption of wearable technology has been slow due to barriers such as price and fashion, the enterprise wearables journey is beginning to take off. At the end of 2014 the consumer segment for wearable technology reached about 10 million devices worldwide and $3 billion in revenue (Deloitte).
As well as mass adoption amongst consumers, wearable technology is beginning to catch on with organisations across a range of industries wishing to embed it into their business processes. As it begins to grow wings, let’s take a look at some of the different ways in which wearable technology will transform the future of work and communication.
1. HR and Recruitment
Human resources is a critical component of business, and wearable technology offers huge opportunities in this area, particularly with regards to recruitment and hiring.
The first thing that generally comes to people’s minds when wearable technology is mentioned are Smartglasses such as Google Glass. If used correctly, this technology will be able to transform the way recruiters take on and train new hires. Similar in function to a smartphone –but worn instead of held – Smartglasses free up the hands, enabling recruiters and hiring managers to take more of their work with them, including applications, cover letters, resumes and all the necessary forms.
It will also revolutionise the interview process. Instead of taking copious notes throughout the interview and relaying them to key decision managers who might not be present, the interviewer will simply be able to record the interview and relay exactly what they are seeing, picking up key signals such as body language that an externally-mounted video camera might miss.
The Smartglasses can also be used as a prompt for the interviewer to guide them through with key questions determined in advance, making the whole process a lot simpler and more efficient.
With this level of efficiency and the potential for real-time feedback, an organisation in the future may be able to extend an offer letter to an exceptional candidate before they even leave the building!
2. Better Security & Privacy
An issue that organisations are always trying to improve upon is security and privacy. Ensuring the safety of passwords and sensitive data without having to jump through hoops to access the information and systems you need is a big struggle for many businesses. Keeping all of your company passwords in one password-protected spreadsheet may seem to work but what happens when you forget the master password, or if someone gets hold of the document who isn’t supposed to?
Wearable and embedded technologies are now making it easier to expedite the verification process when accessing protected devices and systems. By syncing to a wearer’s unique characteristics these technologies ensure better privacy and security controls while eliminating the need to remember passwords and other protocols.
One example of this is a “smart fingernail” worn by the user which contains a file transferring chip allowing users to access and transfer information between devices simply and securely. Containing a small amount of memory and powered by a special antenna, wearers simply need to touch their smartphone or tablet with the smart fingernail to gain access and upload or download information. It can also be used to unlock doors, start a car or power a laptop.
A slightly more unusual variation on this theme is the ingestible password pill. When swallowed, the FDA-approved pill creates an individual signal that is detectable by an external device such as a smartphone. The signal is powered by the user’s stomach acids, essentially turning their body into an authentication token to access their devices.
3. Remote Collaboration
Imagine collaboration on a whole new level. No longer will remote employees remain remote—they will have the ability to see everything that everyone else can. Google Glass apps allow workers to collaborate in entirely new ways and to feel more present than they do through a typical Skype or conference call. The necessity for face to face meetings can be a huge drain on company time, resources and travel costs, and wearable technology will save companies unnecessary expense while streamlining productivity and enhancing business processes at the same time.
This has application across a range of industries, and not just for business meetings. Insurance firms could remotely assess insurance claims by viewing damaged property remotely via the claimant’s headset. Remote maintenance would be possible in workplaces such as offshore oil rigs and ships – instead of sending an engineer all the way out to fix a relatively simple problem, he could view it remotely through wearable technology and guide the person wearing the headset through the repair process. The possibilities are endless!
4. Health and Fitness Monitoring
Corporate wellness has always been an important issue for companies with a lot of employees – ensuring that they are in good health, not stressed and happy in the workplace is of paramount importance to maintaining a healthy and productive work environment. Technology such as Smartphones with apps that can track healthy eating, fitness and sleeping patterns have made this a lot easier and wearable technology is augmenting this even further.
One trend that is quickly catching on amongst organisations is wearable wellness. 13 million wearable devices will be integrated into corporate wellness plans within the next five years (ABI Research)
Encouraging employees to use wearable fitness devices, such as Nike’s FuelBands or Fitbits, to track movement, sleep and eating habits and share their accomplishments with their colleagues can motivate your entire office to create a healthier working environment, resulting in fewer sick days, reduced stress and higher productivity.
We may also see an increase in wearable devices like LUMOBack – a position sensor which users strap around their waists to measure their posture, programmed to buzz when users begin to slouch. Poor posture in the workplace with be a thing of the past!
And the rest …
We have listed just a few of the ways in which wearable technology can be used in business but this does not even scratch the surface! There are so many different innovative ways in which wearables can be used to boost productivity and enhance business processes. So far it has been successfully employed for remote learning and education, oil exploration, and doctors have even taken advantage of it for distance learning with surgical techniques. There is no end to the things wearable technology can be used for!
Wearable technology is just one of several communications trends are transforming the nature of the workplace and the way we will work in future. Learn more about how the workplace of the future will be revolutionised by the growth in video collaboration.