Wearable technology: a place in business?
10 April 2014 | 0
To the cynics out there, wearable technology seems like simple gadget fetishism, a solution in search of a problem. After all, who really needs a smart watch? Google’s Glass device might be technically interesting, but does it have a practical use?
What about even less mainstream devices like smart gloves and smart cufflinks? Is wearable technology simply the latest fad or the start of a new and enduring product category?
Whatever about the consumer world, when it comes to the enterprise there are many legitimate uses for technology that frees up hands and allows people to concentrate fully on the task in front of them. From warehouse inventory staff to surgeons in operating rooms, there are many professionals who could benefit from no longer needing to carry a tablet or smart phone around. And in the opinion of one manufacturer, the only reason tablets and smart phones have become so ubiquitous in some enterprise settings in recent years is that a wearable alternative had yet to be invented.
“Historically, smart phones and tablets found their way into use in a lot of industries because there was no wearable technology that could do the job,” said Dan Cui, vice president for business development with Vuzix, the New York based wearable technology specialists.
“Take logistics applications. Companies have been using cell phones and tablets for years but they need hands-free ability in order to improve safety. If you’re in a warehouse you don’t want to be walking around with a tablet in your hand trying to do an inventory of boxes. How much better is it to have the computer on your head and have both your hands free to pick up and manipulate the objects that you need to? That’s a much safer environment.”
Vuzix produces smart glasses and headsets that essentially function as head-mounted Android-powered PCs, and that pre-date Google’s Glass product by several years. Cui said he sees wearables replacing tablets and mobiles phones in a number of industrial, enterprise and medical settings in the near future.
“Businesses have been looking at augmented reality and the use of wearable technologies for more than five years now — it’s not a new idea,” he said, adding that when Vuzix executives go out to speak to companies interested in their tech, they already understand the return on investment that’s possible by using it.
“They have use models, software and applications to apply wearable technology to, and right now that doesn’t exist in the consumer space. Our technology is used in a wide variety of settings. Logistics and warehousing is big, as is the area of supporting field service or remote service staff — most major corporations have personnel in the field and they need to be supported during their sales or service calls,” he said.
Another areas that is growing fast, according to Cui, is the medical sector, where there is a need for doctors and nurses to communicate through checklists and procedures before and after surgery. “To be honest, most companies can find a use if they put their mind to it, and there is often a significant return on investment to be achieved if they do that,” Cui said.