Workplace Wearables Are Coming – Be Prepared

Wearable Computing AheadThe topic of wearables is bound to heat up with the news that Apple is planning to introduce an iWatch that will sync with the iPhone and other Apple devices. Could its introduction finally make wearables functional accessories for the workplace (that do more than measure steps per day)?

Wearables are expected to ship 112 million units by 2018, which is an almost six time increase from 2014′s 19 million units.

ZDNet.com has compiled a comprehensive look at wearables in the workplace. It covers areas such as: fit for business; a look at the emerging trend, a free ebook on the topic; five companies getting business wearables done; and best practices for crafting a wearable device policy.

The 41-page ebook is a good place to start. (It requires free registration to download in PDF format.) It looks at “how wearable computing is currently being used; the products that are envisioned, under development, or already available; and the breakthroughs, benefits, and risks you can expect when wearables go mainstream.”

Curious what defines a wearable? The book has a fairly concise definition: “wearables refer to the electronic technologies or computers incorporated into watches, contact lens, eyewear, bracelets, rings, clothing, and more, all designed to be worn on the body. Wearables can be anything from wristwatches that discreetly alert users to text messages and emails to activity trackers that measure blood pressure, heart rate, daily steps taken, and sleep quality. Eyewear, such as Google Glass, provides wearers with a small computer screen overlaying their field of vision.”

The article “Wearables in business: Five companies getting real work done” observes “the potential for enterprise wearables adoption is growing. Much of that potential has to do with the high priority for enterprise mobile strategy, with 49 percent of IT decision-makers saying mobile is a high or critical priority for employees, and 46 percent saying it’s a high or critical priority for customers and partners.”

Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop chain is cited for its use of wearables as a training tool. The chain, which experiences high demand for its sub sandwiches at lunch time, has employees wear Google Glass to record the process. “According to Jason Smylie, the CIO/CMO of Capriotti’s, Glass has allowed leadership to sit down and go over each rush time and look for opportunities for improvement — in a similar way to athletes reviewing game tapes with their coach,” reports the article.

Another topic of interest is formulating a wearable device policy. The article predicts wearables will flood both the consumer and corporate markets within 5 to 10 years. Companies need to be prepared for their use by both employees and customers.

The article says any “policy should be developed with input from stakeholders across the organization and outline the following:

  • Procurement process for company-owned devices
  • Acceptable use of organization-provided devices
  • Acceptable use of personal devices
  • How the use of wearables will be monitored
  • Violations reporting process
  • Potential penalties for violating the policy

Once created, the policy should be evaluated by your organization’s legal counsel and disseminated as part of your standard employee documentation.

Probably just as important is the ZDNet article on wearable etiquette aptly titled, “Wearables etiquette: How to wear devices without people hating you.” This paragraph argues for common sense as the best guideline: “As wearables change, and we change along with them, it’s good to remember that the behaviors we consider acceptable or unacceptable will shift as well. There is, however, a yardstick for measurement that’s timeless. ‘I love to remind people to return to the principles,’ [Daniel] Post Senning [of the Emily Post Institute, and author of the book Manners in a Digital World: Living Well Online] said. ‘When they don’t know what to do, but really think about what they’re doing, they’re going to avoid 99 percent of the mistakes people make if they think about what’s respectful, what’s considerate, and ultimately what’s honest.’”

Keith Griffin
Keith Griffin is an award-winning business writer and editor with more than 30 years experience as a journalist. His work has been published in The Boston Globe, Medical Economist, Good Housekeeping, About.com, the Hartford Courant, CT Law Tribune and numerous other regional publications.