Commercial success has been hard to come by for wearable tech devices. The original Google Glass is just one example of a number of consumer-facing products that struggled to marry form with function until they were finally pulled from shelves. In some cases, sleek product designs haven’t been able to fully answer for a lack of utility, and more functional wearable devices have lacked the aesthetic appeal needed for widespread use. Concerns over cost and practicality continue to stymie the growth of wearables.
But hope springs eternal for wearable technology in the enterprise. With plans to improve sound quality and battery life, the recently announced Google Glass 2 aims to switch gears and target more enterprise customers. When tech giants like Google (a pioneer in wearables) make the switch to the enterprise, there’s no denying where the real potential for wearable tech lies.
Here are three industries that present wearable technology with the biggest opportunities for expansion through business-to-business applications.
Sensor-embedded wearable technology has the potential to dramatically improve the quality of medical care. Hospitals around the country are already implementing solutions like the Leaf Patient Monitoring System, a wireless sensor that enables doctors and nurses to monitor a patient’s position and movement. The system then sends alerts to the hospital staff whenever a patient needs to be repositioned according to his or her prescribed turn schedule in order to minimize the risk of pressure ulcers.
Such devices not only promote safety and efficiency in hospitals, but also aid in managing patients’ medical records. For example, Proteus Discover uses a wearable patch to keep track of important medical information needed to determine the best course of treatment. Whether in New York or Los Angeles, these wearable devices make patient medical histories more portable than ever before.
While increased access to accurate medical information has its benefits, questions regarding the security of such data still remain. If wearable devices with medical sensors are to ever gain a foothold in the healthcare industry, more must be done to assure patients their medical history is well-guarded.
A lack of success in the consumer market doesn’t mean smart glasses can’t make an impact in the enterprise. Warehouse workers can optimize inventory management, quality control and site security with smart glasses such as those from Vuzix, which provide a real-time stream of data needed to monitor and improve processes on the factory floor.
Even offsite personnel can stay up to date on everything happening by watching a live video recording from the point of view of warehouse workers as they perform machine diagnostics and quickly scan shelves to pull, package and ship orders.
A few obstacles still stand in the way of widespread adoption of smart glasses in manufacturing. Claims of greater speed and efficiency hold no merit without a guarantee that smart glasses can gather the correct information manufacturers need. Once that data is collected, it must also be presented in a way that’s understandable and intuitive for all workers. Before smart glass make their way to warehouses around the world, more needs to be done to ensure their accuracy and reliability.
Aside from serving the supply chain industry, smart glasses and body cameras have already found a home in the military. Wearable optical displays from companies like Six15 Technologies represent one of the ways in which wearable technology can keep soldiers on the ground as safe as possible. For instance, smart glasses allow commanders to use the soldier’s line of sight to provide consistent feedback during a mission, while also relaying new information to the solider in an effort to increase his or her situational awareness and reduce troop and civilian casualties.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has taken wearable technology in the military to even greater heights by introducing lightweight suits capable of reducing soldiers’ fatigue in battle.
In order to make it out of the factory and onto soldiers, these devices must be both durable and unobtrusive. As in the medical sector, data security and reliability of Internet-connected wearables present two other major challenges to adoption. With military technology, any sort of malfunction or glaring error can potentially place one or more lives in danger.
Since bursting onto the scene, wearable technology has struggled to keep up with the expectations and demands of consumers. The enterprise, however, holds a number of untapped opportunities for wearable tech. With the right improvements, business-to-business applications in healthcare, the supply chain and the military can help wearable technology reach the mass marketization we’ve been waiting for.
About the Author
Andrew is a Partner and Senior Account Director at Walker Sands Communications, a full-service marketing and tech public relations firm based in Chicago. Andrew leads the company’s wearable technology practice area and oversees strategic programs that sit at the intersection of media relations, content development and digital marketing. To learn more, visit www.walkersands.com.