In recent years, wearable technology has become a hot topic in the tech industry. With its tight relationship with the Internet of Things, many insiders have designated wearables for business as the next big thing. But while the most talked-about new wearable technologies—such as the Apple iWatch and Google Glass—are either not yet widely available, or are only just beginning to make their way into customers’ hands, there are many other wearable products that have already established themselves in the market.
To many users, these new devices are often categorized as fun novelties and interesting gadgets, but others see them for what they really are: a game-changing influence with the potential to utterly disrupt the modern business world. As such, we've recently launched Salesforce Wear, a development platform that can be used for creating business apps for Android Wear, ARM, Fitbit, Pebble, Philips, and Samsung, as well as other devices.
But while it’s apparent that the first wave of business-centric wearable technologies has already made an impact on organizations large and small, it’s not quite as obvious what that impact actually is. Here are a few key points to keep in mind.
During the formative years of the wearable technology boom, marketing was centered almost entirely on consumers. However, recent trends indicate that giants in the wearable tech industry are now designing their products with business applications in mind. The recent wearable tech influx in the business world was launched with the promise of improving workplace productivity and the overall efficiency of organizations.
Companies in the field service industry have already seen the impact of wearable technology, with technicians donning wearable cameras while out in the field. Wearable “smart glasses” allow many of today's leading field companies to solve issues faster, thus saving millions. Some of the most popular wearable devices, such as those used to look inside patients' veins, are being implemented in other industries. Construction workers are using this wearable technology to easily see inside piping and walls.
The retail world could also benefit from wearable smart tech, specifically where productivity is concerned. Wireless headsets, wearable wrist displays, and tech lanyards all allow employees to access information on-the-go. This means store workers can now look up the information they need without abandoning the customer or visiting a stationary terminal. The impact on the day-to-day may seem small, but in the long run it can increase retail productivity tremendously. One study suggests that wearable tech in the workplace can increase productivity by as much as 8.5%, and that it increases employee satisfaction by 3.5% as well. This impact will likely continue to grow as more wearable tech pieces are introduced to the market.
Smart watches are also increasing retailers' productivity with payment processing. PayPal is launching a new app for the Samsung Gear 2 Smartwatch that will make it possible for consumers easily pay for products and services right from their wristwatch. Retail employees will be able to accept PayPal payments with the press of a button.
And the impact of wearable smart technology isn’t limited to these few examples; in fact, in a 2013 study, approximately a third of U.S. and U.K. adults surveyed stated that wearable technology has helped their career development. But is this new technology a passing fad, or does it have the staying power to continue to change the world in the years to come?
There's no doubting that doing business has become more mobile, and with the introduction of wearables, it's time to think about how your business can (and will) be impacted.
To get a better idea of what the future holds for wearable smart tech, one needs to take a look at its predecessor. Mobile smart devices, specifically smartphones, have had a greater impact on the business world than anyone could have ever predicted. Important calls are now made on the go, teams separated by thousands of miles are able to have regular meetings, apps have made managing your small business seamless, and everything from sending emails to sharing documents is easier, faster, and more efficient.
And while wearable technology may have begun its existence as fun accessories to smartphones, it has grown to the point of no longer needing to be tethered to additional smart devices. Just as wearable technology was once forced to “piggyback” on smartphones, so too has it used this relationship to ingrain itself into the business world and make day-to-day operations even more effective.
The time may soon come when phones and tablets are a thing of the past, and the smart devices on which we all rely will sit innocuously on our persons, as unobtrusive as jewelry or clothing, yet infinitely more valuable to our businesses.
As an example, let’s take a look at Google Glass. If everything goes as planned, consumers will soon have no need for their standard smartphone. Google Glass is able to easily respond to verbal commands, augmented by the occasional manual interaction via controls located directly on the frame, and there has even been talk about eventually including a laser-projected virtual keyboard for those times when voice just isn’t enough. And with the ability to access countless sources of information in seconds and then relay them to a miniature screen situated in the upper corner of the wearer’s vision field, Google Glass makes 4G internet connectivity features seem archaic. Google Glass is still in beta mode, but the company is inviting “Explorers” to test out the device. As more consumers and businesses continue to test the product, its significance is becoming clear.
A sales professional armed with Google Glass will now be able to walk into a sales meeting, look at a client, and retrieve information on his or her industry, job title, and more. Google Glass could instantly display information on the last order placed, past reviews, and the date of the client's last meeting, all in the eyes of the wearer. For those with hands-on jobs, like mechanics and plumbers, Google Glass could become indispensable. If a mechanic needs both hands to fix a machine while reading information usually presented by a tablet or smartphone, they could wear Google Glass to perform their job freely.
And Google isn’t the only company making strides in the field of wearable business tech; Motorola has recently entered the ring with its Moto 360 smartwatch.
While other companies have started to look past a traditional watch design, the tech company has instead embraced it with a fresh, professional look. The Moto 360 is primarily voice operated and can easily read messages and reminders on command. The result is a small, stylish accessory that completely replaces the smart phone. It can be worn during business meetings and professional transactions, and serves as an assistant, calendar, and phone all at once. Motorola understands what many in the wearable tech industry are now beginning to see: The average consumer of these high-end products is looking to harness their power for business.
There's a reason that Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon all created their own smartphones. They saw that screens were getting smaller, apps were becoming the way to connect, and technology was on the move, literally.
Wearable electronics are the next evolution of mobile technology. You don't have to create your own headset or application tomorrow, but the earlier you start strategizing around wearable tech, the more competitive your business can be in the next step of mobile business.
In addition to improving the consumer experience and making businesses more efficient, wearable technology is also creating new business opportunities.
The influx of wearable devices like Google Glass and smart watches will open up new opportunities for marketing, including enhanced customer data collection and insights into user interaction. Smart pieces of wearable technology allow digital marketers to more easily collect information on the buying habits and locations of consumers.
Marketers aren’t the only ones who will benefit from the wearable technology trend. New wearable gadgets mean enterprises will need to develop apps for new systems, and manual workers will be needed to create entirely new products. Smart clothing and accessories are already expanding business opportunities, and as this trend continues to flourish into a multi-billion dollar industry, new possibilities will arise.
As the wearable technology trend continues to explode, new opportunities for marketing, development, and labor will enter the economy. And while many are excited to wear voice activated glasses, they may be missing the most important boon of this industry—its economic impact. By the year 2018, the wearable technology market will be worth $8.36 billion.
No longer do we have to wake up our smartphones and open an app, wearables allows us to be connected at all times. And with that connection is a constant flow of live data that is an opportunity for the most forward-thinking companies to create new technologies, services, and even entirely new industries.
Enterprises spanning marketing, app development, and retail have only begun to see the impact of wearable technology. There are plenty of wearable tech pieces already available for consumers today, and even more on deck for release in the near future.
Brands that want to remain competitive in the future must prepare for the next wave of wearable technologies with strategies to leverage their value for both employees and consumers. After all, it looks as though the future will be one in which everyone wears their business on their sleeve.