Wearable technology to take the workplace by storm

The GCC is likely to be an early adopter of wearable technology, and wearable technology with workforce management solutions are set to take the workplace by storm, says Ahmed ElShrif of Kronos.

Tags: Kronos (www.kronos.ae/)Wearable device
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Wearable technology to take the workplace by storm There are a number of different use cases emerging for wearables in the workplace, says ElShrif.
By  Ahmed ElShrif Published  August 10, 2014

The market for wearable devices in the GCC, such as watches and glasses, is forecast to grow to 8 million by 2018, almost 1043% increase from 2013. This is driven by the nature of this market being an early adopter of innovative technologies. Many believe that wearable technology is poised to take the workplace by storm. This does not come as a surprise as this trend is quickly revolutionizing the way we access information and accomplish various daily tasks. Therefore it is essential for companies to keep up with the evolving consumer landscape...

Most organisations are just starting to learn about wearable technology or to think of it as a workplace tool. Today’s innovators will quickly figure out a way to use these devices to their advantage. In leveraging this at the workplace, chances are high that they’ll reap a number of significant benefits along the way: reduced costs, increased efficiencies and a more nimble, productive workforce of employees better able to deliver superior goods and services.

What is wearable technology?
Wearable technologies fall into several broad categories:Smart devices such as Google Glass and watches like the InPulse Smart Notification Watch allow people to view information in a new way and on the go; health monitors such as the FitBit, FuelBand and Jawbone collect and analyse physical data to understand, monitor and maximize physical activity and improve wellness; medical devices that continually monitor biometric indicators such as blood sugar levels or pulse rates to adjust treatment for various illnesses and health deficiencies like diabetes, high cholesterol, cancer, etc; and tethered devices that are an extension of a smartphone, such as a Bluetooth biometric sensor, to act as a heart monitor.

Is wearable technology right for the workplace?
Many experts believe that this technology is ready to take off in the workplace, and that it could have a potentially significant and pervasive impact on the economy. Additionally, recent research has found that smart watches and other wearable devices could be a $50 billion market by 2017.

With examples such as these, some experts believe that wearable technology will more quickly become adopted in the workplace than by consumers. However, employees may perceive this as a monitoring tool while employers will play a great role in positioning this technology as an engagement tool for efficiency, responsiveness, and productivity.

Still, employees may be more receptive to the idea than you may think. Employee badges, package-tracking devices, and healthcare tablets are all examples of technology that employees have already embraced as part of their daily working lives. If employees experience real benefits from using wearable technology on the job — such as recognition from management or improvements to their personal productivity — there are high chances of them embracing it.

For the most part, wearable technology is still in the trial or concept phase. But we can already see some very real examples of how wearable technology could transform the work environment. The following examples illustrate the business impact wearable technology could have.

Monitor fatigue in nursing staff: Nurse fatigue is clearly a challenge in healthcare, yet most organizations don’t have a solution. For example, a recent study found that nearly 65% of participants reported that they almost made an error at work because of fatigue, and more than 27% acknowledged that they actually had made an error resulting from fatigue.

Wearable technology could provide a solution to nurse fatigue. For example, as the technology evolves, all nurses could wear bracelets that monitor their most critical vital signs, including fatigue. A nurse manager could have a real-time summary or dashboard highlighting the overall ‘health’ of all nurses on a particular shift. If a nurse falls below a certain fatigue threshold, the nurse manager could quickly decide to send the nurse home - before a potential incident could occur.

Improve manufacturing processes: In manufacturing, employees could use a smart wristband that is ‘aware’ of their location on the floor. As the employee enters the facility, the wristband could ‘punch’ them in for the day and then direct them to their assigned work cell.

Such a device could combine the location-tracking functionality with data associated with traditional manufacturing punches to provide managers with instant information about the employee’s work. For example, what are they working on? Are there productivity issues? Are they falling behind? Armed with this information, supervisors can react in real-time to potential issues and optimise business outcomes.

Increase sales in retail: Many retailers today use cameras to detect the volume and flow of customer traffic. If associates were equipped with wearable devices, store managers would know exactly where they were, and could then reassign underutilised staff to areas of the store experiencing higher volumes of traffic.

All of this would go a long way to increase sales, basket size and customer satisfaction. And if the store experienced a spike in high-spender customers, a manager could immediately transfer the best sales associates to greet and personally assist these loyal customers as they shop.

The way ahead
Two facts are ahead: one — technology is only going to get better and more prevalent; and two — wearable technology is here to stay. Therefore, companies of all sizes should start thinking about the best way to leverage technology and take advantage of what it has to offer.

Ahmed ElShrif is Director, Middle East at Kronos.

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