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Wearable tech offers promise (and potential peril) for the enterprise

Al Sacco | Jan. 23, 2014
Wearable technology is not just for consumers. CIOs who want to stay ahead of the curve need to start preparing for this new wave of gadgets today. Here's a look at the current state of wearables in the enterprise, along with some examples of how your company can begin to realize the technology's potential for business.

"It's not a gimmick," says CA Technologies CTO John Michelson. "I'm confident that we're going to be seeing a lot of really good stuff coming from [wearable tech]. The business case is there, the technology is there."

Fitness trackers and health bands will likely be some of the first wearable gadgets to gain widespread adoption in the enterprise, but smartwatches and smartglasses won't be far behind.

"This year is the year of the smartwatch," according to Redg Snodgrass, co-founder and CEO or Wearable World, a group that helps fund wearable-tech startups, connect them with interested businesses and investors, and educate other interested parties. "I think smartwatches will be ubiquitous by the end of the year."

Snodgrass also thinks many different versions of smartglasses will become publically available this year, including Google's Glass, but suggests that it will likely be more than a year before they really catch on.

Today, less than one percent of U.S. companies have implemented smartglasses, according to research firm Gartner. That number could increase dramatically in the coming decade, with as many as 10 percent of U.S. organizations using smartglasses in five years and half of all companies that could benefit from smartglasses distributing them to at least some of their employees within 10 years, Gartner says. Gartner also thinks smartglasses will begin to have a very real effect on the field service industry as soon as 2017, with a predicted $1 billion per year in related cost savings.

Wearable Tech in Healthcare, Retail and Public Safety
Forrester's Gownder says the industries that stand to benefit from wearables in the shortest amount of time are healthcare and retail. Gownder suggestions that the ability of biometric sensors to continually monitor various health stats, such as blood glucose, blood pressure and sleep patterns, and then send them regularly to healthcare organizations for monitoring could transform health reporting.

"Under the Affordable Care Act, there are penalties for hospitals that have bad 'outcomes,' so the [wearable health monitors] are becoming very important," Gownder says. "Home monitoring is being used to improve outcomes, and there's much more incentive to improve."

Popular fitness trackers — the Fitbits, Nike+ FuelBands and so on — seem like consumer gadgets, but they may also have multiple benefits to businesses. For example, fitness trackers could be distributed to employees as part of corporate wellness programs or to encourage team building and friendly competition; incentives could include reduced insurance premiums.

"I've talked to several CIO groups that are looking to form large-scale relationships with Basis or Shine or Fitbit. This is something CIOs could do a little bit early on to cut down on costs of insurance," Snodgrass says. "And it's something that's kind of cool. People really enjoy wearing these devices. "

 

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