Enterprise Wearables on the Fast Track

Carl Weinschenk
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Embracing the Mobile Development Trends of 2016

The emergence of wearables at work as a distinct category offers great challenges and significant benefits to businesses. The developers who are charged with writing applications for enterprise wearables are aware of the upside – and wary of the difficulties.

Today, Kony released a survey of 230 people in the app development ecosystem. Sixty-nine percent of app designers said that working with wearables and connected devices is or will be a challenge within the next six to 12 months. The survey makes clear that the general belief is that the mobile app development world is changing dramatically as innovation moves beyond tablets and mobile phones to incorporate a “broader range of interfaces, screen sizes, and capabilities.” Wearables are central to this transition.

Burley Kawasaki, the senior vice president of Platforms at Kony, told IT Business Edge that the main concerns, at least at this point, are fulfilling the needs of users, communicating with end users, and adapting to new design parameters:

The primary challenge we are seeing with wearables in the enterprise is that there is such high demand for wearable apps that developers and designers are struggling to build apps quickly enough to meet those demands. Designing and developing apps for wearable and connected devices can be difficult because of unusual screen form factors and shorter user interactions and engagements. Smaller screen size and limits to what can be included visually have created new limitations. The developers and designers that participated in our survey also agreed that many stakeholders lack a clear vision of their apps, which can create conflicts in the development process. Other challenges include the complexity of omni-channel development and testing, as well as designing for multiple devices and platforms.

IDC says that more employees are using wearables, but that the increase is slow and comes from a small base. Some companies are using wearables for employee fitness programs and as pilots for what eventually will be augmented reality programs, according to Baseline, which profiles two companies that are using wearables. One, a beer distributorship, is working with UnitedHealthcare Motion. The idea is to combine custom-designed fitness trackers with a wellness program. The other is a high-tech company that is using wearables to measure the impact of its products and to track employee fitness.

Kawasaki believes that, in time, any obstacles can be overcome – though it doesn’t sound like the changes will be trivial:

They are challenging but not impossible. These issues call for a redesign of business processes to accommodate the shift that designers and developers are already experiencing as a result of creating wearable apps and apps for nontraditional connected devices. End users and stakeholders need to consider the amount of data that needs to be captured by the app and what corresponding information needs to be displayed. These parameters can help focus the design and development process, speeding build time and helping designers and developers meet demands. In addition, establishing clear lines of communication between designers, developers and stakeholders could result in major improvements to the app development process, and code-less design visualization tools can help stakeholders clearly present their ideas of what the final app should look like.

The challenges are significant, but appear surmountable. At the end of the day, it seems likely that wearables will be an enterprise staple. Indeed, Infoholic Research indirectly provides evidence of this: It says that the compound growth rate (CAGR) of the enterprise wearable security sector will be 51.4 percent between this year and 2022.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.


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