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Could enterprise be the spark the wearables market needs to ignite consumer sales?

by Andrew Stillwell , 11.09.2015

While the consumer wearables market fizzles rather than explodes, with suspicions that sales of the Apple Watch haven’t met expectations fueled by Apples reluctance to release this data, there’s growing buzz about the use of wearable technology in the Enterprise. The Enterprise market for wearables is growing organically as an increasing number of applications are found which offer significant return on investment (ROI), bringing improvements in efficiency, safety and security for businesses and their employees.

The basis of these predictions is the increasing number of uses being identified for wearables in Enterprise, and the critical part they’re expected to play in the Enterprise Internet of Things. Potential use cases are infinite, but are mainly based around key functionalities:

-          Glasses which allow others to view what the wearer is seeing. These offer the potential to provide expert advice and training remotely, which is not only likely to improve the speed, efficiency, & quality of work being done, but offers ROI by removing the need for those remote to travel

-          Wearables with the ability to access documents such as manuals, training materials, work task lists while in the field increases employee expertise and efficiency on specific tasks as and when required

-          Real-time data, video, and other information such as location can be transmitted from wearables in real time to allow collaboration between employees and tracking of employees and their tasks, effective prioritization, and the most appropriate employee to be allocated to each task

Industries at the forefront of this growth are healthcare, automotive, telecom, utilities, supply chain, and the military, but eventually wearables are expected to permeate all types of business. Example of this are:

-          Healthcare – wearable devices in this industry range from wireless sensors being used in hospitals to monitor patients, through to the watches worn by an increasing number of consumers to monitor their health, well-being, and activity. Also available are remote patient monitoring therapy devices for use in the home, insulin/glucose monitoring, and pain management.

-          Supply chain – factory and warehouse workers can use smart glasses to optimize inventory management and quality control, receiving a real-time stream of data that increases efficiency and improves processes.

-          Automotive – wearable technology such as glasses, watches, and wristbands can provide vital information to the driver on directions, the position of the car on the road, potential hazards, traffic, and fuel efficiency.

Many major brands are on board and set to help drive the growth of wearables in Enterprise. Apple Watch has Salesforce based Enterprise focused apps including travel and expense management. Samsung have partnered with SAP to connect their wearables to the SAP Mobility platform. Sony has already publicized its confidence in the B2B segment. “The biggest benefit of wearable technologies,” according to Sony Mobile Communications President Hiroki Totoki, “is that they free up both hands. So we will be looking at what kind of workers want information on a real-time basis, in what kind of circumstance and what information they need.”[1] And there are reports that Google Glass Enterprise Edition will soon be launched, targeting the business environment.

However, in order to achieve the predicted growth in Enterprise wearables must satisfy two key criteria:

-          Applications, which collect and transfer data through wearables, and create additional entry points into business networks, need to be secured to ensure they remain safe from hackers and viruses. Any new device and use-case must come with a cast iron guarantee that the data of the business and its customers is 100% secure.

-          Operating systems, apps and devices will also need to integrate seamlessly alongside current business applications and devices. IT departments do not want additional ecosystems appended to what they use currently, easy integration with existing systems will be a key selling point

There’s a strong basis for optimistic predictions regarding the growth of Enterprise wearables, and technical and business decision makers in a range of industries will be seeking out relevant use cases which offer significant ROI. It’s possible to envisage that the growth and development of Enterprise wearables could outstrip that amongst Consumers, and wearables devices and applications developed in Enterprise could then be molded to Consumer use cases. Enterprise technology leading consumer technology, now there’s an old fashioned concept.

For more information please contact Andrew Stillwell at andrew.stillwell@gfk.com.