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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.

The modern retail experience could also be transformed thanks to wearable tech, according to Gownder. Many companies are already experimenting with the idea of identifying customers as they enter retail spaces, to help create a customized and unique shopping experience. Apple's iBeacon uses Bluetooth technology to detect nearby devices and send product updates or other relevant information to customers in certain stores. Apple's system is not based on wearable technology, but it's easy to imagine a wearable-based progression in which customers get much more personalized experiences after they authenticate using biometrics in a smartwatch.

"CIOs of retail organizations need to pay attention," Gownder says. "Retail will be huge, and it has the potential to intersect with the entire wearables ecosystem."

Snodgrass agrees that retail organizations also benefit from wearables. He envisions inventory managers and sales representatives using smartglasses to provide a better in-store or customer experience. Reps with smartglasses could know exactly how many pairs of shoes are available in a given style and where they are located, as well as which sizes are in the storeroom, so the salesperson wouldn't have to leave a customer or keep them waiting while searching for a shoe in a specific size.

Epson's Moverio smartglasses are already being put to use in a variety of professional environments. For example, Evena Medical's Eyes-On Glasses system lets phlebotomists employ Moverio glasses and augmented reality technology to easily locate patients' veins and reduce failed attempts at injections. The Moverio smartglasses are also being used by field technicians to view models of machinery or systems as they repair them.

Public safety organizations, including police and security officials, could also realize tremendous value from wearable technology, according to Forrester's Gownder. Just this week, Google spotlighted a New Jersey firefighter who is building an app to let him and his firemen colleagues see blueprints of burning buildings before they enter.

Motorola Solutions offers a set of wearable gadgets designed for use by law enforcement and other public safety officials, including smartglasses that show important notifications and ensure officers see them as quickly as possible; wearable cameras that can capture everything an officer sees and hears while on duty, including details otherwise missed in rapidly developing situations; biometric straps for monitoring vitals during high-pressure or dangerous environments, and gun-holster sensors that send alerts to command centers whenever officers' holsters are unlocked.

Wearable Authentication and Identity Management
The issue of security is a complex one when it comes to wearable technology — but some experts suggest wearables can actually increase security without introducing risks that offset the security ROI.

"The good news is that there are a lot of promising products out there on the wearables side that will actually enhance security," Wearable World's Snodgrass says. "Biorhythms, identity, encryption and passwords — these aspects of security will really be bolstered by a lot of the different products that are going to be coming out pretty soon."


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