From Apple Watches and Sony Smart Eyeglass to Fitbit and Oculus RIft, wearables have been steadily growing in popularity in the consumer world over the last few years. Many wearable tech companies, though, are starting to realise the huge potential of these connected devices in the business context. As increasing numbers of ever-more sophisticated wearables – designed for offices, surgeries, shops, construction sites and showrooms among many others – hit the market, we consider their benefits and possible pitfalls.
Saving time with wearables
A recent study by Deloitte revealed that UK users collectively check their phones over a billion times a day, at home and at work. If you imagine the wasted time spent taking your device from your pocket and unlocking it, only to discover that you’ve been interrupted by a less than urgent app notification, it’s easy to understand why many businesses are excited by the prospect of a wearable alternative for employees. Smartglasses allow users to perform these checks in an instant in what are known as “microinteractions”, potentially enabling them to save huge amounts of company time.
Wearables creating new opportunities
As well as enabling more efficiency in the workplace, many companies are getting to grips with the ways wearables can open up new and exciting opportunities for their marketeers. As consumers’ use of smartglasses and smartwatches increases, so businesses can take advantage of new methods of customer data collection and the ease with which these devices can collect information on buyers’ spending habits and locations. The constant flow of data resulting from consumers being so consistently ‘plugged in’ to their wearable devices is just waiting to be populated by the most cutting-edge services and technologies, even brand new industries.
Productivity vs privacy
While wearables have some obvious advantages for those who want to help employees become more productive and increase operational efficiencies, as devices become more and more adept at gathering users’ data, all this innovation raises some serious ethical questions that require careful navigation. Some businesses, for example, are starting to use implanted NFC (near field communication) microchip technology to eliminate the need for physical passes and key fobs that allow employees to access sensitive areas. The risk is that such wearables – as well as the GPS tags used by companies such as Amazon to track their ‘pickers’ as they move round warehouses – can be perceived as intrusive surveillance tools rather than productivity aids. Innovations like these may create an atmosphere of mistrust that can be very damaging to employees’ morale, with some people finding the idea of their movements being logged more stressful than helpful.