Wearable smart devices, more commonly known as wearables, have earned a steady following among consumers over the last ten years. Smartwatches like the Apple Watch are likely the best-known wearables, but many other kinds of wearables have emerged, and continue to emerge today. Wearables available on the market range from head-mounted displays (HMDs) to clothing and jewelry. These devices not only perform many basic computing functions, akin to laptops and smartphones, but can also perform unique health-tracking services (such as calorie tracking and sleep monitoring) as a result of being in contact with the user’s body.
Enterprises may see wearables appearing more and more often in their workplaces in the near future, and, therefore, need to consider whether they might be able to leverage these technologies to create a more productive and connected workplace.
Read on to learn about six types of wearables that are likely to appear in your workplace in the coming years, and why they are important for you to know.
Smartwatches are likely the most commonly-known and most commonly-used wearables in the workplace today. Connecting a smartwatch to a smartphone enables the wearer to read and send new messages from their watch, eliminating the need to hold and view one’s phone. Smartwatch designers are finding new ways to innovate: starting from its Series 4 product line, Apple’s Apple Watch enables users to obtain an electrocardiogram heart reading without any additional accessories, while the Matrix PowerWatch Series 2 can charge from solar power and body heat in place of electricity.
Why you need to know about smartwatches: As an increasingly common accessory, smartwatches can be a distraction in the workplace; even if workers’ smartphones are stowed away during a meeting, workers can read the news and communicate with each other using their smartwatches. Additionally, given that smartwatches run on their own operating systems, businesses will need to consider how to account for smartwatch software in managing their networks.
Smart jewelry is the logical conclusion of ongoing research into how to include health-tracking capabilities in smaller wearables. The most prominent kind of smart jewelry (as of 2020) might be the smart ring. Exemplified by brands such are Oura, smart rings are worn on the finger like standard rings, all the while obtaining health-tracking data that the user can later review on a smartphone. Many other unique iterations of smart jewelry exist, from bangles to bracelets, with some designs even created by well-known fashion firms. In the near future, the Joule will expand the range of potential smart jewelry; a smart health-tracking device that doubles as an earring backing, Joule effectively allows any earring to become a smart device.
Why you need to know about smart jewelry: As compared to a smartwatch, smart jewelry may offer a less intrusive means of monitoring one’s health in the office, without compromising the health insights that one can obtain. Companies looking to promote active lifestyles may consider subsidizing or providing employees with smart rings or other jewelry in place of smartwatches.
The modern successor to pedometers, fitness trackers monitor steps taken, heart rate, calories burned, and a range of other fitness metrics. The distinction between fitness tracking devices and smartwatches has become very small; fitness-oriented products (such as FitBit’s line of fitness trackers) now include smartwatch features like phone notification alerts, and smartwatches include an array of fitness tracking options and capabilities. Fitness trackers tend to be cheaper, however, as they have comparatively fewer features, and focus on functionality, rather than aesthetic appeal.
Why you need to know about fitness trackers: Fitness trackers once lacked many of the distractions that make smartwatches potential work-disruptors. As fitness trackers gain more and more of the functionalities associated with smartwatches, companies should review these devices once again and consider the possible distraction they could pose.
By making contact with a larger amount of one’s body, smart clothing can provide deeper insights than smaller wearables can, enabling advanced tracking for both medical care and lifestyle improvement. Samsung conducts extensive research in this sector, and has filed a number of promising patents; if these patents become commercially-available products, Samsung may soon release smart shirts capable of diagnosing respiratory diseases and smart shoes that monitor running form. Consumers can already purchase Siren Socks (smart socks that can detect developing foot ulcers), Nadi X smart pants by Wearable X (yoga pants that vibrate to improve form during yoga exercises), and Naviano smart swimsuits that provide alerts when the user should apply sunscreen, among many other kinds of smart clothing.
Enterprises have also begun to use smart clothing as a way to generate brand loyalty. Tommy Hilfiger, for instance, experimented with adding location-tracking functionality to its Tommy Jeans Xplore line of clothing. This enabled the clothing to track how frequently the customer wore it, so Tommy Hilfiger could reward frequent wearers with more Tommy Hilfiger products.
Why you should know about smart clothing: In the coming years, businesses will need to review their dress codes and decide whether or not to allow smart clothing in meetings, networking events, and other contexts. Anticipating potential questions from employees and updating dress codes ahead of the trend will solve issues before they arise.
Implantables make contact with the user’s body from the inside, rather than on the skin. For instance, the company Proteus produces sensor-containing pills that can monitor blood pressure and other health metrics; after the patient swallows the pills, they can wear an external device to easily monitor the data generated from within the body. In the near future, smart tattoos may also become available for patients who want an easy way of ensuring that they always remember to bring their monitoring devices with them.
Why you should know about implantables: For work involving technology-sensitive components (for example, magnets), companies often need to clarify policies for employees using older implantable devices such as pacemakers. New kinds of implantable technology will add new logistical wrinkles to safety guidelines, and as such, businesses should research new implantable devices and update their safety protocols accordingly.
As the name suggests, head-mounted displays (HMDs) go on the head and provide a display in the user’s field of view, such that the user can use the device without needing to look down at a phone or smartwatch display. HMDs can provide one of several kinds of experiences for users: HMDs can function as monitors, provide information superimposed over reality via augmented reality (AR), or completely immerse the user in a virtual reality (VR) setting.
As a start, useful HMD devices exist separately from AR and VR HMDs. As an example, Vufine produces smart glasses that allow users to view the video output of devices like drones in real-time.
AR HMD devices allow users to simultaneously interact with digital information and the real-life environment that surrounds them. Indeed, the digital information being displayed can interact with the environment. Simple uses of this technology have already proved to be popular with consumers in smartphone applications such as Pokémon Go. Some of the most promising AR HMD projects include Magic Leap’s Magic Leap One and Microsoft’s HoloLens 2, which both have a range of potential applications in enterprise and consumer contexts. Although both devices are currently oriented towards developers and cost several thousand dollars per unit, AR glasses from companies such as Vuzix are already available for consumers at a lower price point.
Finally, VR HMD devices fully immerse the viewer in a virtual world. Once associated with bulky headsets and computer rigs, VR devices are now commercially available in lightweight HMD designs. Google Cardboard and similar products like Samsung’s Gear VR leverage users’ phones to provide VR, for example, while other devices such as the Oculus Go are dedicated HMDs with all the necessary components built into the devices themselves.
Why you should know about head-mounted displays: AR and VR technologies are being used for an increasing array of both professional and potentially-distracting recreational purposes, ranging from employee training to gaming. Businesses should plan carefully if they provide their employees with workplace HMDs that also support leisure activities.
As workers bring more and more of these wearable devices into the workplace, companies will need to find ways to harmoniously integrate these devices into their networks, while ensuring that these new devices do not harm worker productivity. For Apple Watches and smartwatches running Google’s Wear OS, as well as a range of VR devices, 42Gears UEM can sync these wearables with an enterprise’s network of other devices and reduce the potential distractors available to your employees. You can learn more about 42Gears’ UEM solutions here.