Developments in emerging technology market are paving ways for wearables, from virtual assistants to stress-busting and real-time translation devices, to gain integration into and redefine workplaces, according to Ronald Ravel, B2B director for Toshiba South Africa.
He said 2018 could be the year for wearables to finally take off in the enterprise space, adding that the “idea of integrating wearable technology into enterprise IT infrastructure is one which, while being mooted for several years now, has yet to take-off in earnest.”
ABI Research has also predicted global wearable device shipments could reach 154 million by 2021.
Wearables, which have mainly been used by consumers to track fitness and make it seem they are in a futuristic spy movie by taking calls on their wristwatches has, however, been said to have a strong future in the enterprise with the potential of increasing workplace efficiency.
The mobile devices, which have not seen widespread adoption in the workplace, according to Mike Pegler, a PwC partner, are a part of everyday life for many as the early adopter stage has passed and the industry is now entering the early mass-market stage.
However, what is evident is that regardless of whether wearables to date have lacked the mobility or security capabilities to fully support the ways in which we now work, organisations remain keen and willing to unlock the potential such devices have,” Ravel asserted.
A maturing Internet-of-things (IOT) market, advances in the development of augmented reality (AR), and the impending arrival of 5G – which is estimated to have a subscription base of half a billion by 2022 – are contributing factors which will drive the capabilities of wearable devices, Ravel noted.
The most significant catalyst behind wearables, according to Ravel is the rise of ‘edge computing’. Edge computing is defined as a method of optimising cloud computing systems by performing data processing at the edge of the network, near the source of the data.
“As the IOT market continues to thrive, so too must IT managers be able to securely and efficiently address the vast amounts of data generated by it. Edge computing helps organisations to resolve this challenge, while at the same time enabling new methods of gathering, analysing and redistributing data and derived intelligence.
“Processing data at the edge reduces strain on the cloud so users can be more selective of the data they send to the network core. Such an approach also makes it easier for cyber attacks to be identified at an early stage and restricted to a device at the edge. Data can then be scanned and encrypted before it is sent to the core,” said Raval.
According to Equinix and IDC research, edge computing will help organisations to achieve $2 trillion in extra benefits over the next five years.
Despite the various technological advancements, Raval says CIOs across various sectors are recognising how they can best use these devices to enhance mobile productivity within their organisation.
“In particular, it is industries with a heavy reliance on frontline and field workers – such as logistics, manufacturing, warehousing, and healthcare – which are adopting solutions like AR smart glasses.
The use case for each is specific to the sector, or even the organisation itself, but this flexibility is often what makes such devices so appealing.
“While wearables for the more traditional office worker may offer a different but no more efficient way for workers to conduct everyday tasks such as checking e-mails and answering phone calls, for frontline and field workers they are being tailored to meet their unique demands and enhance their ability to perform specific tasks,” says Raval.
He gave the example of a boiler engineer who, while conducting an annual service on a boiler, would wear AR glasses and overlay the schematics of the boiler to enable a hands-free view of service procedures. In the healthcare sector, AR glasses could let clinicians access patient records hands-free.
The adoption of wearable devices has more than doubled since PwC’s 2014 survey, where 49 percent of the 1,000 survey respondents, all based in the U.S., say they own at least one device. This is up from 21 percent in 2014.
The PwC report, The Wearable Life: Connected Living in a Wearable World, stated that “By 2020, more than 75 million wearables will permeate the workplace,” citing a research firm, Tractica.
Equally, Gartner research estimates that by 2018, 2 million employees will be required to wear health and fitness tracking devices as a condition of employment.
Wearables will be considered mainstream once they pass the “turnaround test.” This means that when someone forgets the device at home, they return to retrieve it. “When they pass, it means the device has risen to a point of providing sufficient value that you’re willing to turn the car around. When it hasn’t passed that test it’s a novelty,” Pegler said.