The idea of introducing wearables in the workplace can provoke mixed feelings. On the one hand, there is the promise of transformed process, efficiency and innovation, on the other hand it hints of a dystopian future where employees become commoditised and employers are privy to their every move.

It is natural — and desirable — that the introduction of any new technology into the workforce is scrutinised, particularly one as data intensive as wearables. We need to ensure it is implemented in a thoughtful, considered and privacy compliant manner and, crucially, in a way that enhances the working lives of employees, and not just the employers.

Thus when implemented, wearables have tremendous potential to make a positive impact within the enterprise across safety, customer care, customer experience and more. While most enterprises are at the beginning of their wearable journey, there are already some fascinating applications out there.

It’s hard to whittle them down (you can see more in Ansible’s Wearables and Mobile report here) but for my money the following are of particular interest.

Safety First

The concept of monitoring employees’ brainwaves might sound Orwellian, but it is a powerful technology to combat accidents caused by fatigue. The Smart Cap, for example, is a base ball cap that looks like an ordinary cap but contains sensors that monitor brain waves for signs of fatigue and assess levels of alertness and drowsiness. The cap is being used by several industry sectors, including several mining companies in Australia, to reduce the risk of accidents. When the driver reaches a dangerously high fatigue level, the cap provides a warning sound letting them know that they are soon to fall asleep.

Workplace Efficiency

In a similar vein, the Daqri Smart Helmet™ is an industrial grade smart helmet that enables workers to connect to their work environments through the power of augmented reality. It combines a camera and audio capabilities to enable remote help, has a large field of view optical see-through display on the visor and an integrated absolute scale thermal camera (along with the traditional safety features of a hard hat and safety lenses).

You can check out their use cases here (and I’d strongly urge you to do as their visuals really tell the whole story). It is used to create a safer environment for industrial operators by giving them the ability to visualise, passively record and analyse temperature data in their real world environment as well as improve maintenance and monitoring in addition to giving workers distributed information, data visualisation outside the control room, guided work instructions and remote expertise.

The company states that they have proven efficiency increases of up to 30 per cent and reductions in error rates of up to 90 per cent in some applications.

Patient Care

The Leaf Patient Monitoring System tracks a patient’s position and movement and uses that data to automate and document the management of required turn protocols for patients at risk for pressure ulcers. The device features a digital timer that alerts staff when interventions are needed to turn patients who are lying down or reposition sitting patients to ensure optimal pressure offloading. It also monitors mobility over the duration of the patient’s stay to document improvement in condition, validate discharge, and reduce time in hospital and likeliness of readmission. A clinical study found that using the Leaf sensor increased compliance with hospital turn protocols from a baseline of 64 per cent at the start of the trial to 98 per cent after the monitoring system was introduced.

Customer Experience

One of New York’s most successful restaurateurs Danny Meyer recently announced that he will roll out Apple Watches for staff at his renowned Union Square Café. The watches will notify managers and sommeliers as soon as a VIP enters the establishment. The watches will be connected to the restaurant’s reservation system and integrated into the restaurant’s point of sale system.

Guests will have profiles that feature preferences, allergies and past orders. Mangers can monitor how long a table has been seated and precisely when their order should be taken and can contact coat room attendants to collect guests’ items. Sommeliers will be able to more efficiently access wine from the cellars too.

While at first glance this might seem frivolous (certainly compared to the previous examples), this kind of application has the potential to completely redefine customer experience in the wider hospitality industry.

I expect to see wearables contribute a great deal to customer service in other sector industries too. Augmented Reality has already been widely adopted in the auto sector; Audi and Hyundai have introduced virtual showrooms for customers and recently, Hyundai released an AR-enhanced owner’s manual for the Sonata. Car owners can use their smartphones to perform basic functions such as changing the air filter and wiper fluid. They can also see what functions are available inside the car.

Google has also moved into the Augmented Reality retail space, announcing at the consumer technology show CES in Las Vegas that it has entered into partnerships with BMW and Gap, deploying its 3D-scanning project called Tango.

With a new study by Grand View Research, Inc. predicting that the global enterprise wearable market will reach USD$22.3 billion by 2025, we can expect to see the applications and use cases multiply in the next few years.

For those organisations that are not already considering how and if wearables might be used to improve the working life of their employees and business performance, now might be a good time to do so.

Written by Scott Player, CEO, Ansible Australia

Originally published in the Australian