Enterprise Wearables: The Next Big Thing Is Here

Carl Weinschenk

Small markets that take off often do so dramatically. The infusion of a large number of users, combined with the low usage at the beginning, results in meteoric percentage increases in take-up rates and other metrics.

That period, the “hockey stick” part of the curve, is here for wearables. Datamation reports on IDC’s latest wearables numbers. The firm found that during the quarter of 2016, 19.7 million wearables shipped. That’s a 67.2 percent increase from the year-ago quarter, when 11.8 million wearables shipped.

It was, according to IDC, quite an interesting time: Prices dropped after the holidays, products were introduced, the rankings of the top five providers changed (Xiaomi replaced Apple in second place behind Fitbit), and several startups ceased operations. Ramon Llamas, an IDC analyst, said that wearable devices themselves are evolving. That, of course, is the most important thing.

Though most of the news about wearables is on the consumer side, the category is perfectly suited to the workplace. The situation is similar to the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend in that there is no real line between consumer and enterprises uses. If it is used at home, it is brought to the office.


Therefore, the enterprise market is set to explode as well. Last month, Tractica released a report, “Wearable Devices for Enterprise and Industrial Markets,” that predicts shipments of enterprise and industrial wearables will grow from 2.3 million last year to 66.4 million units annually by 2021. During the term of the study, 171.9 million workplace wearables will be shipped.

Tractica Research Director Aditya Kaul said that this class of wearables has moved into the implementation phase. The demand, he suggests, will be led by smart watches, fitness trackers, body sensors and smart glasses. Demand will be deep and broad:

Kaul adds that a wide range of innovative new use cases are emerging for workplace wearables, focused on application markets that include retail, manufacturing, healthcare, corporate wellness, warehousing and logistics, workplace authentication and security, and field services, to name just a few.

Indeed, the use cases for wearables at work are endless and bound only by the imagination. Nicole Klemp at Appirio offered more examples:

In the medical field, many doctors and nurses use smart eyewear to access patient records. This allows them to have their hands free while caring for patients, and provides an opportunity to update medical records more efficiently. In manufacturing, wearables allow warehouse managers to capture real-time data and better manage distribution and fulfillment operations. Retail and industries with large amounts of field service agents are also seeing the benefits of distributing wearables to their workers.

Klemp paraphrases research from Forrester that suggests that “the enterprise has now become the hotspot for wearables.” Next on the agenda are wearables for knowledge workers. To date, Klemp observes, most wearables at work have been aimed at people who tend to move around and do things more than type. That could change in the not-too-distant future, she writes.

Common sense says that wearables, especially when combined with augmented reality and virtual reality (AR and VR), as Klemp’s examples suggest, can be huge enterprise tools. That reasonable prediction appears to be coming true.

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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