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Curious about your coworker’s weird new glasses, or the little black wristband that has become more popular than the little black dress? Welcome to the wearables at work movement.
Wearable devices have a variety of benefits, from elevating fitness to improving business processes to increasing camaraderie in social groups and at work. We can now access information through glasses with one glance, give a quick project update via smartwatch, and send heart rate information to the doctor with a touch of a button. The value of wearables is taking hold, with 61 percent of respondents in a recent survey noting an improvement in personal efficiency with wearable technology.
With benefits that can clearly extend to the enterprise, wearables are on a similar trajectory to that of smartphones and tablets just a few years ago, and companies will soon need to refocus efforts from BYOD to BYOx.
Wearables Wearables Everywhere
Smart glasses, fitness bands and smartwatches are the new must-have devices, and are predicted to sell 10 million units in 2014, generating $3 billion. 150 million wearable tech devices will ship by 2018, but beyond this booming growth, who are these wearable adopters and how are they using these gadgets?
- Who? While industry perception is that young individuals are typically early adopters, this theory doesn’t always ring true. Only three percent of Millennial respondents in a recent survey reported using smartwatches. And a First Insight study found that it seems women find wearable devices to be more valuable to them, as they are willing to pay higher prices for the devices than men.
- How? The First Insight study found that fitness wearables lead the adoption trend. This information is consistent with ABI Research, which identified (in order) sports/activity trackers, healthcare devices and smartwatches as the top three wearables. Although companies like Google are retargeting Glass for the enterprise, this data may change in coming years.
- Where? If you think usage is exclusive to early adopters within Silicon Valley, think again. According to the First Insight study, the fitness wearables that will soon hit the market were most popular in the Midwest. On a global scale, North America leads wearables adoption with more than 40 percent usage, but CCS Insight predicts that Western European usage of wearables will leapfrog past North America by 2016.
Why Wearables in the Workplace
While consumer apps lead the wearables market share with $2 billion, enterprise and industrial applications are expected to grow by 21 percent through 2018. BYOx is following nearly in lock step with BYOD’s footsteps. With similar benefits of BYOD (the promise of lower costs and increased employee productivity and satisfaction), BYOx will take the workplace by storm. For example, a study by the Institute of Management Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London, found that “devices like brain activity sensors and posture coaches boosted productivity by 8.5 percent and job satisfaction by 3.5 percent.”
Wearables in the Workplace…Today
While wearables in the workplace have yet to reach critical mass, they are gaining steam. Bosses are handing out smartwatches as bonuses, employees are comparing their Fitbit results, and individuals are monitoring heart rates with wearables to meet HR goals and rewards. Notably, BYOx is currently being used to improve the following:
- Corporate Wellness: ABI Research states that over the next five years 13 million wearables will be incorporated into corporate wellness programs. Companies like BP are doing this today, conducting million-step challenges with Fitbits.
- Instant Communication: Smartwatches are either an extension of, or evolution of, the smart phone. They appear to be the least adopted, but most anticipated, wearable option so far. While current thoughts on pricing range well above the $200 sweet-spot, consumers will soon decide if paying a high price for a smartwatch is worth replacing email overload.
- Customer Service: Virgin Atlantic is one major brand that is implementing Google Glass. Travelers are greeted at airports with customer service reps using Google Glass to update flight information, change travel plans, offer information on local weather and events and translate foreign languages.
- Sales: Fashion houses are creating intelligent jackets that include intelligent waterproofing and programmable t-shirts that can flash Facebook posts, tweets and favorite songs through LED lights.
- Business Processes: Google Glass has started to extend beyond just a way to “look” tech-savvy – most notably hospitals. A lung surgeon at U.C.S.F. uses Glass to view live scan images and Ohio State University hosts a surgeon who broadcasts surgery to students and colleagues in order to educate in real-time.
What will Drive Workplace Wearable Critical Mass?
History has proven that consumers love their new toys and are eager to open wallets—to a certain extent. The First Insight report found that the expected retail prices of upcoming wearables are 41 percent higher than what consumers are willing to pay. Value and price will determine a purchase, as evidenced by the First Insight report; there is unwillingness to pay proposed sales prices for new-to-the-world products, particularly at price points over $200, reflecting mainstream market versus early-adopter reactions. This is one reason why industry pundits propose that Google Glass hasn’t taken off with consumers, and now the company is re-focused on selling Glass to the enterprise. In certain cases – like the loyal devotees of Apple – consumers will make an exception and pay more for functionality when it’s paired with great design, but generally speaking, consumers demand either low prices or even free devices, accompanied by service plans.
There’s a big potential for BYOx in the enterprise, but in order to wearable manufacturers to target that as the next big audience for adoption, they need to take the consumer into consideration. Not only is it important new products meet consumer expectations in terms of value and usefulness, but setting the right price for a product is critical to the point that it can make or break that product’s success. Once manufacturers start thinking about their products and their role in the enterprises in this way, the BYOx party will officially begin.