There are some compelling use cases for wearable computing in the enterprise, but it depends on whether enterprises themselves create and adopt these new platforms. Like it or not, these devices will be brought to work -- and whether that is a threat or an opportunity depends on how you plan to take advantage of this trend.
On a typical workday I'm literally wearing more computing horsepower than most people have on their desks. Left pocket -- iPhone 5S that connects to my car with the Automatic smart driving assistant and doubles as a set of house-keys thanks to my Bluetooth smart lock. Right pocket -- Samsung Galaxy S4 that will (hopefully) soon connect to a Galaxy Gear Smart Watch. Right Wrist -- Jawbone Up that tracks my sleep and activity and reminds me to take regular breaks by buzzing if I'm not active enough. AND if Santa brings me Google Glass -- now that would be even more exciting.
These devices are all extremely cool, powerful and portable with a variety of services that connect them to my body and lifestyle. Since I've gone wearable I've seen a noticeable improvement in my driving thanks to Automatic's reminder when I accelerate or brake too quickly, and my sleep schedule has improved to where I'm now averaging four to five complete sleep cycles a night.
Challenges for the Enterprise
Until recently, the bring your own device world was focused on phones and tablets -- but as you can tell from the inventory of my blue jeans -- none of the devices I have were provided to me by the company IT staff, and none of these gadgets are under their control. I wonder what our health insurance carrier would think about my Jawbone activity score for example, or what the potential risk of having Google Glass on during a confidential customer meeting would be.
In the physical enterprise though, geofencing and location based data could be the silver bullet for limiting what devices can be used within a defined space. Imagine this: an employee badges into work to get into the building. When they do this, the Bluetooth receiver on their phone enables a local device profile which stops all data collection, disables the camera on Google Glass, and restricts access to social networking to prevent secrets from leaking on Twitter.
What This Means for Business:
With risk also comes opportunity to create entirely new markets and develop products in this space. Consumer use of wearables are just emerging. Looking into my crystal ball, here is where I see the trends in wearable computing sticking first:
- Instant access to information, without having to reach for a device. Tons of uses for simple alerts and monitoring to keep attention to the task at hand. This is happening today with things like the Pebble Watch alerting you of a phone call, but imagine what this means for retail shopping. When you pick up an item in a store, ponder it, look at the price tag, then slowly put it back, you will receive an instant notification on your watch that two of your friends bought a similar item and now "Like" the brand on Facebook.
- Big data is about to get REALLY personal. What if everything you ever ate or drank was automatically logged for you? While this is potentially terrifying for people like me who like to sneak a trip to Taco Bell, it's encouraging for medical devices that can monitor things like blood glucose.
- Sensors that connect to your devices make entirely new things possible -- for people and for companies. There is a line from wearable computing to embedded (or implanted) computing, and I'm excited for dumb sensors that connect to smart applications. For example, there will be a tablet application that attaches to an external fingerprint reader and iris scanner that lets you open your safe deposit box.
If visionary companies like Samsung, Google and startups like Pebble and Automatic can deliver on this vision, and devices prove affordable and secure enough, then wearable computing will soon have a whole new look.
Title image by of tedeytan (Flickr) via Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 License