Where do wearables fit in the enterprise?

  • Organizations are testing wearable technologies in customer service, CRM, task automation, and hands-free applications.

  • As technical challenges are resolved, wearables may transform some businesses.

 “Wearables” are the latest buzzwords in mobile within the enterprise environment. In some ways, wearables have been available in some format for a very long time, but we’re entering into a new era. Today, wearables are lighter, with faster processors, and they feature either built-in data connectivity or a connection through a companion app on a smartphone.

The fitness industry has launched a wave of devices in the consumer market and has created awareness for the category. While many still question the need or viability of wearable devices, brave companies are jumping in to test and deploy wearables. Common use cases include improving customer service, enabling hands-free work, improving data capture, encouraging collaboration, and automating routine tasks.

Let’s look at several pioneering examples of using wearables in business:

  • Customer service. Virgin Atlantic tested Google Glass as a method to improve customer care for its Upper Class passengers. Once the Upper Class passenger arrives in their chauffeured limousine at London’s Heathrow, they are greeted by name. A Virgin Atlantic staff member wearing the glasses can start the check-in process by entering a code. The staff can change a passenger’s seat, check for the latest flight updates, or assist the customer with a flight change.
  • CRM on your wrist. Salesforce.com announced its Salesforce Wear Developer Pack that supports accessing salesforce data on a wide range of devices from various manufacturers.
  • Automate routine tasks. By deploying Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacon geofences, a company can automatically update an employee’s timesheet as they enter the building. For example, apps like ClickSoftware’s ShiftExpert app works with devices such as the Samsung Gear II to enable employees to clock in and out for shift-based work.
  • Hands-free work. Companies are using glasses or wrist devices to enable hands-free work, including trials of surgeons using glasses to review patient data. For example, Bosch is testing Vuzix glass with SAP software to enable hands-free warehouse applications. A worker wearing these glasses can receive a shipment order and be guided to the product within the warehouse via maps and voice. When the worker is ready to select the packages from the shelf, he can use the glasses instead of a handheld scanner to scan the product’s bar codes and automatically associate them with the customer’s record.

Of course, numerous issues still need to be addressed, such as security, privacy, proprietary solutions, and cost. While I don’t want to downplay these issues, I’d say the greater challenge is finding the right use case for your business. The technical challenges will be resolved in time. We expect Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) solutions to extend to wearables, and API platforms and cloud services will begin to play a greater role in connecting proprietary solutions. And the latest chips from companies like Intel are helping to reduce cost and footprint while improving battery life.

If these issues can be resolved, how will you use wearables to transform your business?


Maribel Lopez is the CEO and mobile market strategist for Lopez Research, a market research and strategy consulting firm that specializes in communications technologies with a heavy emphasis on the disruptive nature of mobile technologies. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.

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