The wearables market needs Enterprise use cases

We’ve long been familiar with the so-called consumerisation of IT, the phenonomen which has in recent years brought the pressure of digital and mobile growth into the Enterprise world. The days when the most powerful device you could access was at the office, is now most likely in the palm of your hands.

This shift hasn’t been easy for the corporate world. To keep up with competition, as well as demands from workforces, companies have had to quickly bring in devices to their catalogues that don’t fit well with enterprise architectures. Blackberry devices were simple interfaces to Microsoft Exchange, with the added benefit of encrypted and compressed data between servers and mobiles, whereas iPhones and iPads are more chatty and require bigger data plans. And with new variants coming out every two or three quarters, how long are companies supposed to support them for?

Yet all is not lost for the world of big IT. Far from being left out in the cold with the rapid growth in portable devices, there is some evidence that enterprise-level innovation and research is pushing the use case boundaries with these technologies. A good example is the recently withdrawn Google Glass, which, with its 30-minute battery life, restrictions in use in motor cars, and, indeed, its challenging place in society, has struggled to find its feet in the digital space. Google have promised that learnings from the project will feature in future wearables.

Last year, Virgin Atlantic ran a trial with Glass in their Upper Class check-in area at Heathrow, where premium passengers could be met by the concierge team and identified using Glass. Virgin’s insight ran deeper than just a shakedown of the technology; there was some evidence of premium passengers waiting for Glass-wearing staff to greet them instead of those members of the team without. Staying in aviation, Amsterdam Schipol are also running a trial of Glass with their engineering teams to identify parked aircraft data while outside on the ground.

Often, as a new piece of digital technology comes to market, we’re left frustrated with the lack of immediate use cases. Smartwatches are another example. Sure, they can now double as phones and combine health and fitness trackers, but small batteries require a daily charging regime. My Seiko Kinetic watch never requires charging, as my movement generates a small electric current, and I have two smartphones. Apart from boarding the early-adopter gravy train, what’s the need to buy one?

Again, the corporate world could come to the rescue. I’ve seen a simple workflow app running on a Samsung Gear S smartwatch, which users simply tap to start or invoke a task, and then tap again to say it’s complete. Other simple data analytics can be presented. In harsh environments, such as cold or wet working conditions, the smartwatch suddenly has a massive advantage over a mobile phone or tablet. The user’s wrist will keep the watch above freezing, so its screen can continue to function, while keeping hands free at all times.

A Spanish bank has also developed apps for Glass and smartwatches, suggesting that the consumerisation can go full circle, with enterprise apps beginning to influence consumer behaviour. It could just be what some emerging technology needs to help go mainstream.

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