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The Future of Work: VR, Wearables, and IoT in Business

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While we’ve all heard of the modern suite of progressive tech gadgets (e.g., AI, VR, IoT, etcetera) adoption of these techs has been limited to the consumer space. For the past few years, children and adults have been scooping up VR glasses and smart watches to learn, communicate, and engage. How do these same technologies fit into the business space?

Plenty of businesses are onboard with the SaaS side of the current tech explosion, such as machine learning, cloud and IoT. However, the adoption of physical hardware has been lagging.

While you may not see men in suits walking around with VR tech in every office, some businesses have been able to leverage these techy tools to create actionable changes and improve workflows.

VR Training & Collaboration

The bulk of the VR anticipation is in the entertainment sector. However, VR has some real applications in the business setting beyond playing VR games. Some businesses are already leveraging “virtual training” to simulate specific job responsibilities and give employees actionable practice without the necessity for expensive training scenarios.

Beyond onboard training, VR poses itself as a promising collaborative solution for professionals across industries

Let’s take a look at two use cases that show virtual realities promise in both areas.

1. Doctors in China

“Virtual reality tech saved the expense of flying staff to help with operations far away and was more sophisticated than using simple webcams.” – Ye Zhewei

While virtual realities primary usage may seem like it’s geared towards new hires, doctors in China have been putting it to use for long-distance surgeries. Recently, Ye Zhewei — the chief doctor in Wuhan — helped perform a surgery 3,700km away using VR and 3d imaging. The patient suffered a bone fracture in Bortala (located in the Xinjiang region in northwestern China). The surgeons at the Bortala hospital needed assistance in the procedure due to its complexity. Luckily, Ye Zhewei was an expert on these types of fractures. Using VR, the chief doctor was able to watch the surgery in progress and make annotations and notes for the other surgeons to follow.

This on-the-job collaboration inspired by technology is incredibly versatile. With the rise of VR headsets like the Lenovo Mirage in the entertainment sector, doctors are finding ways to use this technology to help colleagues and monitoring long-distance patients.

2. Walmart Training

“We’ve also seen that VR training boosts confidence and retention while improving test scores 10 to 15 per cent” – Andy Trainor, Senior Director Walmart Academies U.S.

Walmart was one of the first major businesses to adopt VR tech into their training regimen. Mainly for use in compliance and new technologies, their VR headset training program has recently been adapted to teach employees soft skills like empathy and courtesy by simulating checkout encounters. So far, the program has been wildly successful, and Walmart has promised to expand its VR training practices with a further 17,000 VR units by the end of the year. According to Walmart, they hope to have a VR set available for every employee soon.

VR gives employers the ability to scale repeatable training programs at a moderate cost that put employees in simulated situations that increase their job aptitude. Beyond the test scores, VR can be a great way to train employees in safety and compliance without putting them at risk of injury or personal liability.

Wearable Technology

“With the advent of wearable technology, companies will soon be able to better provide ads to customers based on their real-time activity.” – Robert Scoble

With wearables like the Moto smartwatch already cemented into the public’s conscious, businesses are carefully watching the rise of smart wearables. In fact, a recent Adobe survey in the US, UK, and India showed that 68% of employees embrace the growth AI and wearable in the business sector, and don’t fear replacement but rather an enhancement of their day-to-day work.

We’ve already seen a small explosion of wearable tech across industries, like:

  • Apps for smartphones or smart watches that can send distress signals for lone workers.
  • Smart glasses tech used to help workers communicate long-distance
  • Wearable smartwatches can give salespeople, and marketers access to mission-critical data anywhere at any time without the necessity to rely on distracting phones.
  • Travel company Carnival uses smart tokens, which help track users. With this information, cleaning staff can clean rooms when guests are away, and restaurants can prepare for guests prior to their arrival. Recently, these smart tokens have been updated to carry all user data, such as their photo and id, as well as their “avatar” which can be used for entertainment purposes across the ship.

As businesses continue to find unique uses for smart, wearable technology, we expect to see creative uses cases pop up across industries.

IoT Sensors

It’s hard to talk about any hardware tech without addressing the elephant-in-the-room — IoT sensors. The adoption of IoT sensors has been aggressive and nearly immediate, especially in the manufacturing sector and other sectors dealing with expensive equipment.

How are businesses using IoT sensors today?

  • Businesses with high-value equipment can equip IoT sensors to detect malfunctions and prevent damage creep.
  • IoT sensors can be leveraged in manufacturing where products require specific temperatures and parameters, such as keeping equipment cooled to the perfect temperature by engaging fans when temperature levels are sub-optimal.
  • Sensors can be used to track consumer movement patterns to better redesign stores.
  • IoT sensors can be placed throughout businesses to gain workflow visibility.
  • There are plenty of use cases for IoT sensors, and businesses can get savvy and leverage them in hyper-specific situations.

Final Thoughts

While many businesses are focused on the software side of progressive technology, the physical hardware that has been predominately consumer-focused is slowly creeping into the business sector. IoT, VR, and wearables can all be immediately impactful across industries.

Are you a business looking to utilise some of these disruptive technologies in the workspace? And looking for more information on digital transformation in the business space, check out our FREE infobrief.

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