Margaret Roth By Margaret Roth • January 5, 2016

5 Ways Wearables are Improving Enterprise Operations

Tech forecasts for 2016 are all over the map, but one theory remains constant - 2016 is the year wearables in the workplace get real - meaning that they have an actual impact on businesses’ bottom line and the day-to-day activities of enterprise employees.According to Gartner’s “Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2016”, enterprise wearables will play a critical role in the development of connected environments especially when it comes to expanding the functionality of the Internet of Things through the device mesh. Gartner predicts that the proliferation of wearable devices will most immediately occur due to their ability to augment and extend the power of traditional communication, display, and computing devices.But if you’ve been tracking these predictions year after year, talk of the wearable revolution seems to have been on repeat, leaving many thinking “Wearables are cool, but how would I actually use them to benefit my business and my employees?”Take a look at these five examples of how enterprise organizations are actively using wearable technology today, and we’re sure you’ll get some ideas for how and where to start using wearables to benefit your business.

  1. Sales Performance - Just 18 months ago Salesforce launched Salesforce Wear, with the goal of accelerating the “adoption of wearables in the enterprise” and for the first time making it possible for companies to connect with their customers directly through wearable technologies. While initial partners on this project included big names like Samsung Gear, Pebble, Google Glass, Etherios, Philips, and Fitbit, the most impressive applications of the technology all aim to improve sales performance. For example, the NewVoiceMedia Salesforce Wear app presents data about incoming calls directly from the Salesforce CRM to the wearable, updating the salesperson in real time with the knowledge they need to support their customer and close the deal. 

  1. Employee Wellness - Chances are you or someone you know is wearing a Fitbit right now, and whether or not they take the commitment to hit that 10,000 daily steps mark seriously or not, according to researchers at MIT just wearing a fitness tracker makes you more aware of your movement and your health. Which in turn makes you think and ultimately become healthier. This year Fortune 100 companies including Johnson Controls, Allstate, and BP took notice and included activity tracking as part of their company wide fitness and wellness programs. The obvious reason for this trend being that healthier employees are happier employees with lower medical costs, but according to the Metlife Study of Global Health and Wellness longer-term, cost-saving benefits can be linked to improving corporate wellness. These benefits include “reducing employee absenteeism, increasing productivity, improving engagement and retention, and maintaining the organization’s reputation.” The best way to ignite a wellness driven company culture and reap the benefit of cost savings is to start with wearable fitness trackers. 

  1. Operational Efficiency - There isn’t much controversy in this one, as arguably the most basic form of wearable technology - the magnetic stripe card - has been popularly used for far more than the last decade to improve operational efficiency for purposes like access, security, identification, and payment. But with advances being made to minimize the size of the technology through RFID and microchips, operational efficiency benefits including location tracking, engagement, safety, and interaction, are becoming more accessible, more affordable, and less invasive. Companies like HubSpot, which uses a wristband for office access, Eventbrite, which is moving to RFID bracelets over paper tickets for events, and conferences like SXSW, which use embedded badge chips and scanners to track conference attendees, are getting valuable information about their customer’s and employee’s interests, patterns, and decision-making processes. And if you really want to go all-in-crazy-sci-fi on this one you can follow in the footsteps of Stockholm’s Epicenter, a co-working space that has elected to use an implanted microchip instead of boring things like swipe cards, key-fobs, or other external wearable devices.

  1. Inventory Management - With the growing reach of Amazon and it’s Fulfillment Centers, a lot of innovation in inventory management has surfaced this year especially around product order movement automation. But not every business has the need to automate with a full team of Kiva and Fanuc robots. While large quantity inventory management can be done with wearable GPS sensors outside of the facility, real-time inventory tracking can be accomplished using Indoor-Positioning-Systems (IPS) as well. Requiring just an accurate map, a location tracking system, and wearable sensors or tags, inventory can be monitored as it moves through the warehouse automatically, reducing the need for QR codes, manual scanners, and spreadsheets. Companies like Apple, Nordstrom, and Skytrax, are taking advantage of knowing where inventory is inside, as well as how it got there, when it moved, and where it’s going, all in real-time.

  1. Employee Safety - In high-risk environments including manufacturing, oil and gas recovery, mining operations, and building construction and repair, employees mount many challenges to get the job done. Challenges like long hours, stress-inducing obstacles, unpredictable settings, and intensive problem-solving can result in safety hazards and accidents on the job. Using the SmartCap, a wearable fatigue alertness system, truck drivers at Coal & Allied are notified if their fatigue level begins to reach a level that could endanger themselves and others. Simple embedded sensors in clothing and hats can be a low-cost, high-value way to solve problems that put team members at risk, and ensure that at the end of the day, everyone goes home safe.

Wearable technology doesn’t have to be complicated or flashy to benefit your business. If you start by identifying a current process or problem area, chances are there is a way that wearable technology can improve your outcomes. And if you find a way to connect the data that you can collect from these technologies with other aspects of your employee programs, the value of wearables in your workplace will turn into real dollars that make sense. 

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