Wearable technology has taken the fitness community by storm with the advent of devices that track fitness, performance, heart rate, and more. The flexibility of these devices is increasingly enabling users to step away from their smartphones without disconnecting their lives. But wearables aren’t just for consumers who want to track their fitness. Around the globe, there has been a sharp increase in wearables in the workplace.
With its growing popularity in tech-driven APAC states, Asian tech giants are getting onboard with the growing trend and exploring how it can revolutionise the workplace. More companies are incorporating wearables into their day-to-day to streamline business, and improve staff and customer experience. The APAC region is expected to claim nearly 49% of the wearables market over the next few years, and the trend is already permeating many workplaces. Hyundai debuted their experimental wearable Robot at CES 2017 to demonstrate how the wearable tech could enhance the capabilities of staff in the workplace. Hitachi implemented wearable badge trackers to understand where and how their teams were interacting. Australian truck drivers at Rio Tinto’s coal mines are utilising a “SmartCap” to prevent accidents related to fatigue.
Globally, 79% of European employees are already utilising wearables, and 70% of U.S. employees want to use wearables at work. British Petroleum incorporated Fitbits into their workplace in 2013, offering staff cheaper health plans in exchange for points accrued by using the device. Appirio’s use of Fitbit’s lowered insurance premiums for their global staff. Blueberry Home Solutions, a British company, is testing a device that will enable home system control through a smartwatch.
Wearables will only become increasingly ubiquitous, making it paramount for business leaders to stay in the know on where the market is heading and how these devices will influence the future of work.
Whether you’re part of the growing number of companies incorporating wearables into the workplace, or on the outer fringe, here’s what you need to know about where this trend is going and how to implement it for success.
Tracking the current wearables market
With the advent of smartwatches and smartglasses, and a growing interest in augmented and virtual reality, the wearables market is rapidly expanding as the fastest-growing tech segment. Experts predict that 125M devices will ship in 2019, as the market grows by 35% over the next several years. More than 20% of Americans and 14% of Brits are wearing some sort of tech device. Consumer use is trending, and wearable use in enterprises is following suit with a 3x expected growth rate over the next 2 years. By enhancing productivity and the ability to interact with staff in real time, 79% of businesses see wearables as crucial to ongoing business success.
From Microsoft’s Hololens and Sony’s SmartEyeglass, employers are eager to see how smart wearable technology can revolutionise their workplace. To keep costs low and support user privacy, 54% of companies support a Bring Your Own Wearables (BYOW) initiative, and 40% plan to embrace the initiative in the future. Of the global numbers, 48% of APAC respondents have a BYOD (bring your own device) policy in place, though it doesn’t specifically address wearable. And despite the new cyber security threat it creates, and the fact that 86% of users fear data breaches, wearable use in the workplace continues to grow. Gartner predicts that more enterprises around the world will begin tapping into wearables to enhance efficiency and employee performance.
The next generation of wearables
So what’s the next frontier for wearable technology? With machine learning and AI on the rise, innovators are exploring how they can create a complete user experience by tying it all together. By incorporating cognitive technology, wearables are on the verge of becoming smarter, increasing problem-solving capabilities without human assistance. By creating a system that utilises machine learning to mimic human thought processes, these devices will become more accurate and able to evolve through pattern recognition.
Wearables are making a name for themselves not just in business environments, but across industries. Savvy adopters in these industries are making waves and paving the way for improved customer experiences, life-saving technology, and productivity.
- Healthcare: Devices that can help medical providers monitor health more efficiently and effectively are making their appearances in rapid succession. By enabling users to communicate crucial health information to their provider anytime, anywhere, medical wearables are saving lives.
- Elderly care: Helping seniors live more independent lives is crucial as baby boomers around the world face ageing and its accompanying health challenges. Medical applications are expected to become the largest wearable share at $843M by 2021. While smartwatches have been in use for some time to monitor vitals, smart clothes fit with sensors are now on the rise, and smart socks may soon find their way into diabetes care.
- Enterprise: Wearables in the office or on the field are revolutionising work performance and efficiency. Real-time data from smartglasses or biosensors can convey crucial information, enhance communication, minimise mistakes and eliminate needless travel to work sites.
All things considered, the industry has nowhere to go but up. But that doesn’t mean the wearables industry is without its challenges. With 86% of businesses spending more on wearables over the next year, the influx of data is set to flood enterprise servers—but only 8% of companies are ready to manage it. And then there’s the dropout rate due to perceived uselessness. A Gartner study showed that the abandonment rate for smartwatches is 29% and for fitness trackers 30%. Employers who want a more efficient, productive, connected team must clearly highlight benefits to reverse negative perceptions and prepare their company and teams to manage and incorporate actionable insights from user data.
Benefits of wearables in the workplace
The numbers don’t lie—which is why more companies are equipping their staff with wearable devices. Here are 3 key benefits of bringing wearables to the workplace:
- Increased satisfaction and performance
- Access to data in real time
Monitoring staff biodata, such as increased blood pressure, can help managers step in at the right moment to enhance customer experience and relieve staff stress. Access to real-time data can help managers mitigate problems and minimise risks.
- Enhanced efficiency
Employees experience 8.5% more productivity when using wearables than their counterparts. Wearables may be the bridge between the old world and the new future. Though still short of AI, wearables like smartglasses can give users quick access to data and eliminate mundane tasks.
Challenges of wearables in the workplace
When determining whether wearables will benefit your organisation, tap into these considerations from the experts at Harvard Business Review:
- Will your employees use the wearables?
Nearly 44% of U.K. employees would use wearable tech provided by their employer. Another 56% would do so for some tangible benefit, such as more flexible work hours or more affordable insurance. But 40% still aren’t keen on giving away their personal information, for fear it will affect their employment or promotion opportunities. When encouraging your team to incorporate the benefits of wearables into their work lives, establishing a foundation of trust is a must.
- Do wearables invade your team’s privacy?
One study shows that 82% of employees fear privacy invasions and worry about how non-work activities could impact their job. This has made many hesitant to adopt employer-suggested or mandated devices for fear of being tracked, or penalised for incoming bio data that gives away their private lives. It’s crucial for tech-savvy employers to establish guidelines for data mining and to lay fears to rest to get staff on board with the new trend.
- What will you do with the data?
One of the top challenges for 23% of companies considering or already using wearables is what they will do with the data. With both work-relevant and non-relevant data flooding in, most enterprises aren’t prepared to manage it. Creating a plan now, or bringing on a 3rd party company to make sense of the data, creates accountability for employers, security for staff, and streamlined insights for companies to tap.
Staying on top of tech trends is crucial for companies and enterprises that want to stay ahead of the curve, improve productivity, and streamline workflows. By understanding how best to incorporate this technology into your workplace, you can improve adoption rates and minimise abandonment—all while increasing the satisfaction of your staff.