Your coworker might be wearing a fitness-tracking device around her wrist, but it looks like a trendy bracelet so you’d never know she’s amassing data with every step. Your boss might be wearing a sleek smart watch that lets him search the Internet or even pay for his lunch without pulling out his wallet. But can your company’s logistics manager look down at her wrist to check inventory? Can your retail staff adjust digital store signage without leaving the sales floor? Maybe not today, but don’t rule out the possibilities. Wearables in the workplace are soon to be a reality for any organization ready to take advantage of the technology.
Wearables: More than A Consumer Novelty
Software company IDG Connect puts B2B wearables into three main categories: eyewear, bracelets and watches, and “activated” products (with which information is shared and/or accessed via Bluetooth, GPS services, etc.) Yet, the underlying technology has applications beyond the scope of what’s available, or even familiar to us today. Outside of devices, wearable technology—hardware and software—is being developed to be embedded into apparel, and even infrastructures, via sensors and implants. Explore what the U.S. government sees as possible breakthroughs in wearable tech R&D in this Wearables.com article.
Despite widespread fanfare, wearables aren’t quite ubiquitous—that is, they’re not strapped to everyone’s wrists or key fobs quite yet. They likely will be, though, as research from IDTechEx projects the market for wearable technology will reach $70 billion by 2025—up from $20 billion in 2015. And the potential for wearables in B2B arenas is astounding. By most accounts it’s just a matter of time before a tech innovator strikes gold with a wearable solution that transforms healthcare delivery, manufacturing, security operations, or even office administration.
Finding the Business Value of Wearables
When it comes to enterprise adoption, wearables will have to enhance business processes and provide the financial benefits that go along with any change to the way we work. The technology will have to better connect workers to customers, to vendors, and to each other so they can transact in the face-to-face world while staying connected to the digital world.
The Salesforce Research report, Putting Wearables to Work: Insights on Wearable Technology in Business, sheds light on how and why wearable tech adopters in the B2B space have embraced the technology. Here are a few highlights:
- 79% agree that wearables are or will be strategic to their company's future success
- 76% report improvements in business performance since deploying wearables in the enterprise
- 86% plan to increase their wearables spend over the next 12 months
Additionally, 4 out of the top 5 growth areas center around improving the customer experience, and smartwatches are expected to have the biggest impact and quickest adoption rate in the enterprise.
What’s holding companies back? Thirty percent (30%) of of wearable tech adopters surveyed cite the lack of business applications as a primary challenge in deploying wearables. To that, we’ll add perennial concerns about data security and existing tech integration. And any new process-changing solution has to be easy to implement, easy to use, and easy to tie to ROI.
In Wearable Tech & The B2B Landscape, IDG shares an example of wearables’ potential in the insurance industry: “By capturing images, documentation and consent in real time, the speed of processing claims and inspections of everything from vehicles to houses is becoming a differentiator in the market.” It’s along these paths that we may begin to see innovations in corporate payments—imagine the A/P workflow being accessible via a watch, for example, that’s programmed to alert the wearer when there’s an invoice to review and approve.
It’s conceivable that wearables will work their way into B2B admin processes within the next several years. To stay on top of the rising trends, stay tuned to this blog and visit Wearables.com. And don’t miss The Next Big Thing? Wearable Payments for more insights into wearables in the B2C marketplace.