Is It Time for Wearable Tech in the Workplace?

February 25, 2015

By Tom Loveland, Global SVP of Product Strategy

In just a few short years, wearable technology has gone from birth, to crawl to run. In fact the first wearable, produced by Jawbone in 2011, just celebrated its fourth birthday. You can see a complete history of wearable technology launches at Dipity.com.

Since late 2013, wearables – especially those designed for the workplace – have gained steam. And with the launch of the Wearable Technology Conference last March, there is no end in sight for how these technology advancements might impact the workplace.

  • Analysts at Forrester Research believe wearable technology will first become prevalent in vertical industries – health care, for example. In one report, Forrester analyst J.P. Gownder suggests wearable adoption for enterprise use won’t move to business centrality until 2020 at which time, “for some businesses, wearable tools will become central to how their employees do their jobs.”

While Google Glass got shelved earlier this year, there are several innovative companies experimenting with workplace wearables to enhance employee communication and productivity. Tokyo-based Hitachi, for example, is using its proprietary “Hitachi Business Microscope” to better measure and manage employee interaction. This ID card-like device contains multiple sensors, a microphone, an accelerometer, and other data-collection devices. The device can measure how far away co-workers stand from each other when talking.

When worn by employees, the company can record the face time, body, and behaviour rhythm data of employees as they have personal interactions with each other. The information can then be used to identify employee networks and better understand how certain people interact and collaborate.

To further the legitimacy of wearable technology in the workplace, here are several ways your organisation might leverage wearables to advance your business:

  • For training: Headsets and GoPro cameras can help co-workers share their on-the-job experiences in real-time or on demand.
  • When travelling on business: The right wearable technology can help employees get the information they need when in unfamiliar locations.
  • Large campus environments: Wearables (like Hitachi’s device) can be deployed to capture employee interactions, movements, metrics, and experiences. This info can be used to enhance work groups, workplace design and more.
  • Government employees: Wearable cameras for police departments are the tip of the iceberg. Tiny wearable screens will also emerge, enabling law enforcement to get important information in the field.
  • Sales representatives:Companies are creating apps for various wearable devices designed for the workplace with plans to offer access to live data designed to improve selling opportunities.

With this evolution, proactive organisations should take steps to prepare for wearable tech in the workplace. As technology proliferates into the workday there are a number of unknowns that company leaders can start to plan for. For example:

  • How should facial recognition apps be regulated in the workplace?
  • Can/should data collected by wearables at work be made available for employee performance reviews and/or corporate legal proceedings?
  • Should companies allow employees to use smart eyewear when driving corporate vehicles?
  • What etiquette procedures should be created with regard to using wearables during meetings?

Creating a workplace policy and guidelines to govern the use of personal wearable technology is step one. Be sure to consider how potentially disruptive technology in the form of glasses, bracelets, necklaces and constant beeps should be governed.

Got a great wearable storey from the workplace? Share it with Asure Software in the comments section below!