Up to this point, wearable computing has been a bit of a curiosity. Google Glass, in particular, has caught the imagination of the public and generated debate about the uses, security and even ethical and moral implications of the technology.
What hasn’t been a big part of the discussion to this point is the potential of the technology for corporate use. Last week, Himanshu Sareen, CEO of Icreon Tech, posted an interesting story on GigaOm exploring that topic.
Not surprisingly, the potential is tremendous. Indeed, wearable computing could become just the latest communications technology—following Wi-Fi and others—that gained traction in the consumer space and subsequently had great impact in business.
The story suggests that this family of devices can be used for a variety of uses, such as routing employees in dense environments and providing them with important information. Sareen offers examples:
How could this play out in practice? One scenario could involve large corporate campuses tracking the locations of thousands of workers to dynamically route intercampus bus schedules for workers trying to get to a different area. Or another could easily monitor assembly line workers who use smart clothing to suggest the optimal route out of a plant based on traffic densities during an assembly line emergency or safety issue.
Another obvious use suggested in the story is worker health. Health care, of course, is one of the biggest corporate expenses. Use of devices such as Nike’s Fuelband bracelet can improve diagnostics and help workers improve their overall fitness.
A scenario may break out, roughly akin to the bring your own device (BYOD) trend that has reengineered the way in which corporations run today. As with smartphones and tablets, the only logical response is to manage—not approve or disapprove—the wear your own device (WYOD) trend. A piece at SmartPlanet by Joe McKendrick suggested that the trend will be transformational:
Chris Fleck, VP of mobility solutions & alliances for Citrix, says that as is the case with BYOD, wearable devices will be unstoppable, and the best approach is to find ways to leverage and capitalize on this new strain of ubiquitous computing that slips back and forth over the line between business and personal. This includes devices such as intelligent glasses, computer-based watches, and even health-monitoring devices.
Ars Technica’s Sean Gallagher points out, however, that corporate workers have been using wearable technology for years, often for educational uses. Mounted goggles can let workers be directed in harsh environments by a person in a control facility, almost like astronauts on a space walk. The overlay of added information is a key part of wearable computing, but augmented reality is largely new, however.
A company called Meta is going beyond Google Glass with a product called Space Glasses. The device, according to the MIT Technology Review, can overlay interactive 3D content onto the real world. The story says that the current version is too bulky and cumbersome for true mobile use. However, planners at Meta hope to produce Space Glasses that can be used in truly wearable fashion. Needless to say, Space Glasses have many potential corporate uses.
The bottom line is that WYOD is coming, and that’s good news. The past decade has brought vast changes in telecommunications and IT, but once the benefits of these advances are realized, utilization will become smoother. IT departments must look ahead and plan for the future, though.