Article: Wearable technology at workplace: Is it a Fad or Future?


Wearable technology at workplace: Is it a Fad or Future?

Its been some time since the market heard about a new smartwatch. But it seems that many tech companies are working on wearable devices behind closed doors, and it will be quite a race in the near future.
Wearable technology at workplace: Is it a Fad or Future?

While tech companies gear up for this race, there is quite a buzz in the market about the application of these devices, especially in the workplace. So, the first question that arises is that whether the wearable technology is just a passing fad or will it really matter in the future of business?

Wearables - The rise to prominence

Wearables have seen a meteoric rise in popular perception ever since the first Apple Watch rolled off the shelves just a few years ago. Sometimes, even tech enthusiasts find it hard to believe how far we have come from computers that filled a room to smartphones, tablets and now smartwatches. And all this, within a span of few decades. 

This sharp technological transformation of our present and future makes one thing very clear - it’s all about the personal experience. 

While the debate on whether this transformation is a positive one for human race goes on, the end result is quite evident. Technology is percolating through to every possible arena of human civilization and wearables are just the latest example of that. What will be more interesting though, will be to see how people and businesses adopt this change in everyday life.

Wearables in the workplace

Examples of everyday use of wearables are many - from fitness monitors, to virtual reality glasses. But what about the workplace? How will business adopt these devices in the workplace? Surely, you can’t walk into your office wearing a pair of VR glasses, right. Let’s consider some practical scenarios then.

Track fitness in the workplace

Healthcare issues are dogging the workplace and businesses are spending a fortune on employee health care plans. Of course, wearables can help change that. Fitbit, Jiff and many others like them in the healthcare wearables segment are helping businesses to encourage their employees to adopt healthier habits by offering incentives. These programs are a win-win for everyone involved. The employers get the benefit of lower healthcare spends, employees earn rewards for their efforts, and healthcare providers can reduce the costs they have to incur on servicing policies. 

Companies that offer such programs have the choice of providing the wearables to their employees or let them choose their own device. Either way, wearables have successfully gotten a foot in the proverbial corporate door with this application. For example, more than 24,000 employees at the oil major BP have been provided Fitbit fitness trackers in 2015 alone for such an incentive program. The program has helped BP in negotiating a lower rate on group insurance policies as underwriters trust these devices more than the employee self-reporting on their health.

Goodbye clunky devices

Tired of lugging a laptop, tablet or even a smartphone? Don’t worry. Wearables are here to rescue you. Wearables have quickly established themselves firmly as the go-to device if you want your employees to not feel tied-down to their devices and screens. Apple and Android watches, for example, let you access email, make phone calls, schedule meetings, set reminders and everything else that your smartphone can from your wrist. 

One of the best examples of wearables in the workplace is seen at supermarket chain Tesco. Employees at the distribution centers sport an armband that can track the goods being transported through over 9 miles of shelves. This eliminates the need for clipboards and gives the center managers a better estimate of the completion time. Amazon warehouses are another excellent example where employees have handheld scanners that tell them the most efficient route through the warehouse to collect an item for delivery. 

Monitor employees in unique environments

This may seem a little tricky, but consider a police emergency where policemen have to respond to an armed situation. This may actually be a small market, but it can have a far reaching effect on safety, collaboration and data collection in unusual circumstances. Wearables can aid the police response team and provide real-time data to on-site or remote operations command centers. Information about the police officers’ positions, position of onlookers, and that of the suspects can prove to be critical when lives are at stake. 

However, another example for this application that has us excited is seen at Rio Tinto’s coal mines in Australia. Truck drivers wear a smart cap that can detect alertness of the driver and warn when a driver is in need of rest. As a result, Rio Tinto has seen a sharp decline in fatigue related mishaps at work.

Barriers to adoption still exist

In spite of the possible benefits, barriers to adoption among both employees and employers still exists. There may be issues of technology costs, privacy, and BYOD rules across the organization. Early adopters have already experienced these issues that time may sort out. Things are only just beginning to get exciting and there is a lot more to come in the future. Businesses already have a lot of avenues of profit from wearables, and odds of benefit from integrating wearables into your company culture are quite high.

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Topics: Technology, #TechHR2016

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