Even in companies without a strict dress code, the etiquette is usually pretty clear: You put on what’s appropriate to do the job. The rise of enterprise wearables, however, means some of what employees should put on in the future may come from the IT department rather than their own closets.

This week, a survey of Canadians suggested that awareness of wearable technology is at an all-time high, with 51 percent of the population being familiar with the term. The study, which was commissioned by PayPal, also said that nearly a quarter of Canadians would use a watch or bracelet that lets them make purchases in a store. This is a good example of how enterprise wearables could work in a business-to-consumer context, but the trickier area might be the ways companies deploy wearables internally.

Company vs. Employee-Owned Wearables

In a recent research note posted on InformationWeek, Forrester Research analyst J.P. Gownder addressed this head-on with details of his own study on the wearables sector. In a sample of more than 2,000 technology decision-makers, more than half said wearables are a priority, with 32 percent describing them as “critical.” Though most of these wearables might owned by the employer and given to staff for highly specific purposes, like time and attendance, Forrester believes there will be a significant influx of employee-owned devices as well. 

“Workers will inevitably try to expand their work lives onto new wearable devices, like smart watches,” Gownder writes. “Extending mobile device management (MDM) systems and adjusting policies to accommodate these new bring-your-own (BYO) wearables will be a challenge as well.”

The key word here is “extending.” Many organizations are quickly coming to grips with the plethora of smartphones that employees want to connect to the corporate network. In fact, some of the world’s best companies have managed to strike the right balance of not only offering staff choice around smartphones and tablets, but arming them with enterprise apps that make those devices even more powerful. Enterprise wearables shouldn’t be an awkward fit for these kinds of firms. 

Fashion Forward

If anything, companies investing in this area will need to be particularly vigilant about respecting highly personal preferences around the look and feel the apps and the devices, according to Krista Napier. The research analyst with Toronto-based IDC Canada published a report this past summer which predicted almost 8.5 million wearable devices will ship into Canada in the consumer market from 2013 to 2018.

"Wearables are at the intersection of fashion and technology; they must add value and be perceived as seamless, simple, and secure but cannot do so at the cost of looking good,” Napier wrote. The same is surely true for enterprise wearables, no matter how they come into the office. Much like fashion designers, Canadian IT departments may want to start planning a few seasons ahead.

Salesforce Wear

Salesforce.com has a long tradition of translating trends into consumer computing into amazing business products that improve customer connection.

With the recently launched Salesforce Wear, salesforce.com is entering the wearable revolution. The company has started the industry’s first initiative to accelerate wearables in the enterprise and released open source apps for many leading wearables, so that independent software vendors can quickly build amazing apps.

Salesforce.com sees wearables, not just as a consumer phenomenon, but a mobile revolution that can change the way organizations and its employees conduct business. 

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