04/08/2015

By Nick Black, co-founder and director at Apadmi


More and more businesses are beginning to get on board with wearable technology as many are seeing the benefits that they can bring to a range of different industries. With so many different devices constantly entering the market, the possibilities for adoption are endless. With this in mind, I will take a look at how wearable technology is being integrated into businesses and how different industries can get involved.

Nearly 3 million people in the UK currently own a wearable technology device, according to research carried out by YouGov in October 2014, with that number expected to increase to 6.1 million by September 2015. This would more than double the percentage of UK ownership from six per cent to 13 per cent in one year.

And when it comes to the adoption of devices in business, companies in the entertainment, media and communications industries have perhaps the greatest opportunity to use wearable technology to their advantage. This is due to the fact that it can help to make the industry more engaging and interactive through the use of social media platforms, online gaming and more immersive media and entertainment, as just a few suggestions. In fact, some companies are already interacting with wearable technology devices and are seeing the benefits that they bring to the sector. The Manchester Evening News, Manchester’s regional newspaper, is already experimenting with devices to improve engagement with customers. An example of this was demonstrated by Paul Smith, the production manager, who used Google Glass at the end of last year to show readers a ‘designer’s eye view’ of how the front page of the newspaper is put together.

If we look further than the media industry, there are several other industries that have the potential to benefit from the introduction of wearable technology. There are already several examples of how wearable technology is being integrated into sectors such as healthcare, education, construction, retail, social care, sport and leisure and manufacturing. A good illustration of how wearable technology is being used in the sports and leisure sector is demonstrated by The Polo Tech Shirt developed by Ralph Lauren. Bio-sensing fibres have been woven directly into the fabric to track information about the wearer such as intensity of movement, calories burned, heart rate, stress rate and distance travelled. And it has already made its way into professional sport with professional tennis player Marcos Giron wearing the shirt during practice sessions at the 2014 US Open to get more accurate data about his conditioning.

Looking at the construction industry, according to the Harvard Business Review, some workers who are operating heavy machinery such as diggers are equipped with fatigue-monitoring sensors, which can detect when the head or body of the user is slumped. Further to this, tracking devices are also used to increase productivity but also to improve health and safety conditions in the workplace. In these cases where these trackers are used, the receptivity among workers is generally much better.

These examples display that more and more businesses are keen to get involved with wearable technology, including SMEs as well as the larger corporates. Companies from all backgrounds and fields are seeing the wealth of benefits that they can reap from this emerging technology such as increasing the efficiency of internal processes, providing a better service to customers and improving the management of employees. And for businesses that are looking to get on board, it is highly likely that there will be a real life example within their sector that they can research and draw ideas from. By looking into how similar companies are implementing devices, businesses will be able to put together a well-thought out plan and determine the best route that they should take themselves with introducing wearables into the business.

During the researching process, it pays off to really think about what is going to be achieved through adopting devices into the workplace so that they are introduced for a purpose – not just because it seems like everyone else is doing it. Particularly because wearables can present such a vast range of possibilities for a business, it is important to have a set of goals planned out such as boosting the quality of products and services, increasing productivity and improving health and safety in the workplace. This will help to identify how the devices will be used and the functions they will perform.

It’s also important to think about those who will need to use the devices if they are introduced into the workplace. The way an employee is expected to carry out their job will differ so all staff members should be fully informed of what is expected of them and how they will use the device. To many employees using wearable tech will be a new experience for them and it will take some adjustment to ensure that devices are being used correctly and effectively. Adopting these devices into a business will only be beneficial if people on the ground are comfortable with the usage and what they provide. Avoid overly complex technology and offer a great user experience by providing a device that is simple to use, reliable and will enhance the employee’s role. The workforce will be more interested in adopting the devices if they can see the benefits for themselves.

The benefits of wearable technology are clear within a lot of different sectors, and the devices present the ability to completely revolutionise how some businesses operate. As the technology continues to develop, more industries are likely to get involved in the future as the advantages become clearer. The technology is still in its early stages and further down the line, some industries may find that they are better suited to using these devices in the workplace. For now, as more pieces of technology enter the market, the business world is about to embark on a very exciting learning curve.