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The design for wearables in the enterprise

Venkataraman Krishnan, Vice President and Venture Leader, Emerging Business Accelerator; and Rajesh Rajagopalan, Associate Director, Emerging Business Accelerator, Cognizant | March 30, 2016
Cognizant's leaders discuss some of the benefits of adopting wearable technologies in the workplace when introduced to business processes, highlighting some of the main challenges which businesses may face in implementing this change, as well as the possible solutions.

The real question is how to make the advantages of wearables in the workplace outweigh these concerns. The rule of thumb companies need to go with is to ensure wearables are non-intrusive, performance-boosting accessories that simplify workers' tasks and do not take away focus from their primary job. Forcing workers to accommodate new, unfamiliar or awkward equipment must be avoided. On the contrary, existing devices or technologies must be repurposed, enhanced, made simpler and more intuitive. Additionally, wearables introduced by organizations should address increasing personal conveniences of the employees. For example, workers in a plant floor environment wear protective helmets. Instead of adding a smart glass to the protective gear already worn by the worker, a wearable/AR device provides non-intrusive and real-time information to perform their tasks without impacting personal convenience.

Another example is of safety glasses worn on the floor or in the office being enhanced with high-tech features to support:

  • Task execution through a checklist of activities
  • Audio and video collaboration with subject matter experts
  • Automation of simple, discrete tasks (for example, barcode-scanning in a warehouse)
  • Workflow automation (for example, identifying defective parts, feeding updated inventory into the ERP system, etc.)

A smart watch with haptic (touch) feedback capability, for example, can provide factory workers with real-time updates of manufacturing activity and notifications across noisy shop floors.

Implementing the foundational blueprint for wearables in the enterprise

Wearables offer hope in situations where more traditional technologies, such as smartphones and laptop computers, cannot be used or are not a good fit. It is only a matter of time before businesses fully embrace wearable technologies. In order to do so, they will have to develop clear policies for determining who is allowed to bring the equipment into the workplace and connect to the network. What persistent problems wearables can solve and what opportunities they can create would also need attention.

Wearables come with trade-offs and enterprises looking to embrace them must develop strategies to address these trade-offs. Wearables provide users with relevant, contextual information at the point of decision-making to enable real-time actions. They must be supported by a well-crafted plan that includes IT deployment, business process change and, most importantly, change management. To get started, it is imperative that business processes be reconsidered, various wearable devices and platforms be piloted and evaluated, the right wearable be chosen and designed from the ground up, and the workforce be engaged and its concerns about these devices be addressed.

It is critical that employees perceive wearables as a tool that will help them perform more effectively on the job. Concerns and apprehensions around privacy must be managed and mitigated by being transparent and bringing employees onboard early in the process.

It is necessary for enterprises to support workers with digital and just-in-time contextual information. Wearables in the workplace are not just about increasing worker efficiency and productivity, but also about making the workplace safer.

 

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