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Wearables in enterprises: Good, bad, inevitable

Posted: 27 Oct 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Google Glass? wearables?

User enthusiasm for the Apple Watch and the augmented reality possibilities of smart glasses is a mania waiting to happen. But unlike the consumer-driven smartphones, wearables are heading in the opposite directionevolving from the enterprise outward.

"Wearables offer very specific solutions to specific problemswhich is not the right model for consumer adoption, but works well for enterprises," said J.P. Gownder, VP and principal analyst at Forrester Research.

Doctors are trialling Google Glass to access a patient's vital signs without taking their eyes away from the procedure. Service technicians on top of a wind turbine are testing smartglasses to access work orders and take photos while keeping their hands free. In potentially dangerous areas like construction sites, smartwatches are being tested to monitor heart rates and provide safety and location-based alerts.

These are not just time-savers. There are serious profits to be made when wearables improve how workers do their jobs. In fact, Gartner forecasts that the use of Google Glass and other smartglasses will help add more than $1 billion per year to company profits by 2017.

Accenture wearables

(Source: Accenture)

Accenture CTO Paul Daugherty, who works closely with Accenture's Technology Labs to develop wearables applications, said in an interview with InformationWeek that the first wave of employees to use wearables are mobile workers who use their bodies and hands. Think: manufacturing floor technicians, doctors, police and construction workers.

"Wearables speak to a shift in the enterprise to the experience of individual workers, their productivity, and their hands-free access to specific information," said Daugherty.

Handicap of smarts

But even where wearables work efficiently in a number of use cases, it does not automatically bring more security and efficiency. Such a technological and human behaviour shift comes with hard truths about choosing the right wearables for businesses and integrating them within enterprise systems.

Here are three realities, involving security and integration challenges, CIOs should bear in mind when deploying wearables, according to a recent Accenture research report.

1. Wearables are not stand-alone products

Wearables will be just as much a part of the IT infrastructure as tablets, smartphones, and desktops, and enterprises need to write APIs that integrate wearables with ERP, CRM, and work order management systems.

Such integration is nothing to sneeze at and will include, "allocating budget for wearables hardware and app development; retraining staff to handle management of wearable devices and apps, and hiring wearables expertise as needed; and establishing governance across the business to ensure continuity."

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