Wearables at Work and Attracting the Best Talent

It didn’t take long for the BYOD wave and evolving expectations about mobile to result in the consumerization of enterprise systems. Now, it’s time to prepare for the next wave primed to surge through the most desirable workplaces—wearables.

When smartphone ubiquity spilled over into the workplace, it created overwhelming demand for self-service via mobile, leading to the ongoing appification of enterprise systems. As wearables continue to become more prevalent at work, organizations will face the same pressure to provide access through these new, convenient devices.

While the Internet of Things (IoT) is still quite fragmented, research suggests that the broad acceptance of wearables is gathering momentum.[1] Tractica, an independent market research firm, forecasts that the total market for enterprise and industrial wearables will grow from 166,000 units shipped in 2013 to 27.5 million units by 2020, spread across the following major uses:[2]

  • Fitness Bands/Smart Watches for Corporate Wellness Programs
  • Warehouse/Logistics Applications
  • Workflow Improvement
  • 3D/Computer-aided Design (CAD) Modeling for Engineering or Architectural Firms
  • Authentication in the Workplace
  • Mobile Workforce Management

Consumers Shift from BYOD to WYOD (Wear Your Own Device)

One of the main reasons analysts believe that it’s too late to turn back the wearable wave is consumer perception. In a survey of 1,000 American consumers[3], PWC researchers found that:

  • 77% of respondents said an important benefit of wearable technology is its potential to make us more efficient and more productive at work;
  • 70% expect their workplace to permit the use of wearable technology; and
  • 46% percent think their company should fund the wearable technology, rather than supporting a BYOD (bring your own device) model.

In their concluding summary and assessment of the potential impact of wearables in the workplace, PWC advises that:

“Wearable technology has only just begun its impact on enterprise. Those hoping to remain competitive in the future need to account for the next wave of wearable technologies, infusing them into their strategies for both employees and consumers.”[4]

While PWC surveyed general consumers, ADP zeroed in on employees, seeking to explore their attitudes toward wearable technology. They found that employees see the potential of wearable technology to improve their working lives in a number of ways—from organizing workloads based on more productive times of the day to helping them manage stress.[5]

It’s clear that employees are onboard with bringing wearables into the workplace.

Wearables: More than Fitbits and Smart Watches

As the sophistication and functionality of wearable devices increases, so will the ways in which tomorrow’s workers want to use them. Fitbits are already being ousted by smartwatches, and the introduction of the curved smart phone screen has broken things wide open in the wrist device category. And the shift to wearables doesn’t stop with wrist-born versions of current smartphones: armbands that control technology by gesture[6], smart baseball caps that prevent long-haul truckers from nodding off and GPS tags that track the optimal path for Amazon’s warehouse workers[7] are all wearable technologies that have implications for enterprise.

Technology manufacturers and their developers will continue to push boundaries and when they do, the unique functionality of certain wearables will generate novel use cases, calling for new enterprise applications never previously considered and generating new questions, such as:

  • How will you get data from your HCM, SCM or financial system to a wearable device?
  • Will wearables also function as input devices? If so, how will they be enabled to enter new information into your enterprise systems?
  • What approach will you take to the integration of wearables?
  • How will you ensure a secure data exchange between wearables and your enterprise system?

Enterprise Systems and Wearables: Key Considerations

The wearable technology possibilities are endless, and the challenges associated with this latest advance in mobile technology are only beginning to surface. Here are a few things to consider if you want to successfully ride the wearables wave.

Will wearables be able to access your enterprise system? Most wearables are designed to work over the public Internet, while most enterprise systems are firewalled to prevent unauthorized access. Can your enterprise system be made accessible to wearable devices? Before investing the time to define use cases and map out approaches, be sure that the option to integrate wearables is available.

What actions make sense for wearables? Given their limited size and reduced capacity for displaying and entering information, there are likely only a few things users will want to do on a wearable device. Take the time to identify simple, high-volume and time-sensitive interactions that would be best suited to wearables and focus on those use cases.

What authentication approach is best? Your enterprise system will require credentials before providing outside access to the information it contains. Consider how you will authenticate users through a wearable device.

How complicated will it be to integrate wearables? Not all wearables are capable of mimicking a desktop interface or browser. For those that can’t, you would have to create an independent mechanism for exchanging data between the wearable device and your enterprise system. Accessing data directly or using an API would mean bypassing the existing business logic and workflow which, in turn, would have to be recreated by the app developer. Determine in advance what the anticipated level of effort will be to integrate wearables.

Do you have what you need to integrate wearables? Is an API available—in the version of the software you are running—that gives you access to everything you need? Does the vendor provide a software development kit (SDK)? If so, what controls does it allow and what constraints does it impose? Your wearables integration and the specifications of your apps will ultimately be governed by these controls and constraints.

How will security be maintained? If the wearable app communicates through a service layer, is the security stack and business logic preserved? If not, what needs to happen to preserve it or, if necessary, recreate it? Make sure to factor in what will be required to maintain enterprise system security when integrating wearables.

“The Internet of Things (IoT) will be as transformative to the world as was the Industrial Revolution.”[8]

The presence of wearables in the workplace is inevitable. By the year 2020, researchers predict 24 billion IoT devices will be installed, 11.2 billion of them in businesses[9], and many of those will be wearables. Will you be ready?

Karl Wierzbicki of InFlight Corporation has 14 years’ of technology marketing experience driving exceptional ROI through innovative solutions and user-centric technologies like InFlight Aura


[1] John Greenough and Jonathan Camhi, Business Insider, Here are IoT trends that will change the way businesses, governments, and consumers interact with the world, http://www.businessinsider.com/top-internet-of-things-trends-2016-1

[2] Tractica Research Report: Wearable Devices for Enterprise and Industrial Markets. https://www.tractica.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/WDEI-15-Executi...

[3] Wearable Technology Future is Ripe for Growth – Most Notably among Millennials, Says PwC US.http://www.pwc.com/us/en/press-releases/2014/wearable-technology-fu...

[4] PWC, The Wearable Future http://www.pwc.com/us/en/industry/entertainment-media/publications/...

[5] Annabel Jones, HR Director, ADP UK, Will Wearables Revolutionise the Workplace http://www.hrzone.com/community-voice/blogs/annabel-jones/will-wear...

[6] The Myo armband, www.myo.com

[7] Bloomberg Business, Wearable Technology Creeps Into the Workplace.http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-08-07/wearable-technolo...

[8] Business Insider, Internet of Things Report, http://www.businessinsider.com/top-internet-of-things-trends-2016-1

[9] ibid

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