Wearables. Those small devices that have elicited polarizing responses. Some herald them as the next generation of technology; as another step towards bringing humans and machines together. Others say they are just a fad, doomed to be nothing substantial and soon to have the same fate as the 3D TV.
Which side is correct?
So far, it looks like the naysayers are ahead. Smartwatches aren’t exactly flying off the shelves, and the hype around VR eclipsed that of wearables at Mobile World Congress 2016.
However, this doesn’t mean that wearables are already doomed. Yes, the response in the consumer market has hardly set the world on fire, but there can still be a lot of opportunities for enterprises — particularly in making use of wearables internally.
Wearables have More Potential in Enterprises
Let’s take a simple example. Employers spend a lot of time and money looking after the well-being of their employees. Corporate health and wellness programs are important as there are many long term costs associated with chronic diseases. This exerts a massive financial burden on companies and also results in decreased productivity due to absenteeism. The challenge facing enterprises is developing innovative products and solutions to address these growing health concerns.
Some enterprises have found a simple and an elegant solution in wearable devices. These devices brought a new level of activity management and analysis to corporate wellness programs. They also increased employee participation rates and drove preventative programs for those covered by these programs.
These devices are increasingly becoming smarter, syncing with other devices and incorporating technology that has made other wearables, such as Fitbits, popular. This has been a simple, subtle adoption of wearables that has proven to be effective at getting employees to be more active.
Innovation is the Key to Enterprise-Wide Wearable Adoption
Enterprises want something that will make things easier — right from the beginning — with as little fuss as possible. This is where wearables may actually find their market. It may not be in revolutionizing how people read their emails or send text messages (because a watch is a more awkward way of doing both), but in providing another layer of security for enterprises or helping lab technicians document exactly what they did and when they did it.
Some businesses, like Disney, may even find a way to straddle both worlds, by using wearables to revolutionize both the customer experience and how their employees work. While an amazing case study in reimagining what your organization can do, it isn’t realistic for every enterprise to strive for this kind of achievement.
Instead, organizations need to be looking for ways to make their employees more productive. If a simple device can save your workers from mundane and tedious tasks, then it is going to be well worth the investment, both in improving employee satisfaction and in freeing them to work on higher value tasks.
Change is Incremental
These don’t need to be large, grand or expensive projects. Enterprises can start small, with a few pilot programs in carefully selected parts of the organization. Don’t expect to reinvent the wheel; don’t try to revolutionize your whole company in a single sweep. Just find out what your employees’ pain points are, find some interesting new technologies, and see if you can match anything together. It’s important the keep in mind the importance of rigorously testing anything you try and being honest about the flaws.
Strategize and Personalize
Wearables are all about convenience. They make measuring and recording actions, movements, locations and various other data points possible, but they have to do so without being a burden to the workers. While looking for ways to make your employees’ lives easier, remember to consult with them about whether your new wearables are actually more convenient. The user is king!
You also need to consider the physical differences and limitations of your staff. It would be simple if devices were one-size-fits-all, but there will need to be some adjustment from person to person to accommodate differences in body shapes and sizes, left vs right handedness and vision impairment.
First Mover Advantage
The strongest argument for experimenting with wearables is just how subtle it could be as a way to get ahead of your competitors in 2017. Consider something like providing your factory or warehouse staff with a Heads Up Display (HUD). It would help them keep track of what they need to do, provide updates to their workflow as priorities change and allow your workforce to be flexible and mobile without burdening their hands. Yet who would notice? Outwardly, your operation has hardly changed, yet the efficiency within your supply chain has improved drastically.
Taking that logic one step further, it is important to remember that if you don’t figure out a way to make use of wearable technology, perhaps one of your competitors will. Wearable sales are set to more than double over the next 5 years. They may not have captured the public’s attention, but that doesn’t mean that they are going to fail. Personal computers took years to be adopted by the general public, yet they have flourished and driven changes unimaginable at the time.
Do Not Resist Change
Ultimately, any new technology has to overcome one thing: human nature. Humans are resistant to change because of fear, and it isn’t a simple fear. There can be a lot of contributing factors such as vested interests, fear of loss or fear of rejection.
The trick is to figure out how to overcome this trepidation.
When you’re talking about consumer electronics, the focus is always on fashion trends, the brand image and whether you can engage your fan base to support your new products. Ideally, you’ll create such a buzz about your new product that customers will be so happy to have it. And they won’t mind the learning curve as a result.
The point is, wearable technology isn’t going away. It will continue to grow. For businesses with perseverance and an innovative spirit, 2017 is an excellent opportunity to get started (and get ahead). And for those of you who are still thinking that you will never use wearables, I have only one thing to say:
Never say never!
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