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Using wearable technology for business will provide benefits across sectors

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Indeed, studies conclude that up to 18 per cent of businesses now utilise wearable technology in some form or other.

Furthermore, experts predict that wearable technology will become an integral part of the workplace by 2020. Simply, business needs to wake up to the fact wearables in enterprise is a reality.

Train to gain

Augmented reality (AR), whether delivered through glasses such as Google Glass or headsets such as those being developed by Daqri, offers a way to deliver up to date information to employees in the field, or receive updates back to the control room.

These technologies are not new, and can be traced back to companies such as the UK’s Virtuality in the early 1990s. However, their costs have now come down the cost curve to make them deployable on a much larger scale.

Accenture and KPN have developed a great augmented exemplar to demonstrate efficient gains and savings in the field of telecoms repairs by making the engineer “connected”. Particularly promising applications can also be seen in the field of training, in sectors such as healthcare, and complex engineering.

Safety first

One of the greatest advances in technology has been in improving the quality and safety of the workplace. Automated machines in factories can prevent some unnecessary injuries, but wearable technology can help to protect the skilled worker in a manufacturing setting and beyond.

In fact, smart embedded sensors are already available as a standardised presence in hazardous environments, such as oil, gas, transport and construction.

We are a leading developer of personal safety sensors specialising in a wide range of interconnectivity and warning systems for workers in hazardous environments. Unlike using a PC or smartphone, embedded technology into intelligent textiles eliminates the risk of further accidents with straightforward alerts that bypass human intervention to activate.

These wearable sensors can help improve safety, both to the individual and the group, such as alarming a driver when they risk hitting another worker, or even detecting harmful gases.

Increasingly this wearable technology will move from simply alerting the individual to sending person to person alerts and then alerts to control rooms and/or back.

Read more on wearable developments:

Finding the right motivation

Developments in wearable technology have made headlines in the area of tracking health and fitness. The smartwatch and other wearable trackers are one of the largest consumer market presences in recent years, with a wide range of brands becoming household names.

In the consumer world, such devices are utilised to track heart rates during exercise and sleep cycles for improved wellbeing, but these statistics can be used in the workplace as well.

Just as giving a company phone has become a standard practice, giving wearable trackers to employees has a number of benefits. The data can be used to provide personalised feedback based on activity, productivity and even stress levels, with the aim to reduce sick days – for example monitoring firefighters’ health and improving safety.

Responses can also be used to identify when workers have worked too long a shift, essential for those controlling heavy machinery.

Operating at peak efficiency

For those in the emergency services, wearable trackers can help improve efficiency and coordination between workers. Wearable technology can also help to provide direct, vital information for first responders when out on calls.

From QR codes to chips, scanning a casualty’s details held on ICE (In Case of Emergency) smart tags can save vital moments in an emergency and allow for faster, more informed decisions, and let first responders contact the victim’s loved ones.

Wearable technology can also help to streamline many processes where time is an important factor. Warehouse and shipping businesses, for example, have already begun to implement trackers and sensors to improve turnover times and reduce paperwork delays.

Tracking armbands and automatically completed updates allow for instant estimated completion times negating the need for form filling. Moreover, handheld scanners and GPS tags can provide direct routes through the largest warehouses.

Changing perceptions

A dynamic shift in how a business operates can often meet staff resistance, this factor can often outweigh the benefits and prevent companies from adopting wearable technology.

One recent survey in the UK concluded that 40 per cent of employees would consider using some form of wearable device, when the resulting data was intended to be used for improving wellbeing at work, that percentage rose to 56 per cent.

However, the study also indicated a definitive shift in perceptions towards the applications of wearable technology in businesses. As social media platforms have grown, the normalcy for sharing data has increased.

Amongst the 16-25 age group, the percentage of those who were agreeable to the introduction of wearable technology in the workplace rose to 70 per cent, displaying the shifting attitude towards transparency in sharing data.

As data becomes more pervasive, the industry will increasingly need to consider security and privacy issues around the “connected” worker.

Wearable technology in enterprise is now a reality, and businesses will be wise to embrace the opportunities it offers with both hands.

With developments from the likes of Samsung and Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg, as well as Alton Towers and Marriott – this is the year of virtual reality. Are you ready?

Mark Bernstein is the CEO at Wearable Technologies. He is speaking at the Wearable Technology Show, the world’s largest event for connected technology, which runs 15-16 March 2016 at the Excel in London.

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