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The Future for Wearable Technology

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With the news that CRM provider Salesforce will soon be available for Apple Watch, it is clear that wearable technology is being taken incredibly seriously by the corporate market as well as those targeting consumers.

Salesforce are committing to a wearable application hot on the heals of a number of reports highlighting the expected growth of the market, including a recent Forrester report claiming that “68% of executives call wearables a ‘priority’ for their companies”.

In general terms, the wearables market offers huge potential. Indeed, Juniper research expected the wearables market for 2014 to grow to a £1 billion industry with over 130 million devices in use over the next few years.

Perhaps more strikingly, according to PwC in 2012 – two years after iPads were launched (against some skepticism that they were an unnecessary device) – 20% of Americans owned a tablet. This number rose to 40% over the next couple of years. Similarly in 2014, 21% of American adults apparently own a wearable device, suggesting that the appetite for wearable technology exists despite the already excessive digital exposure in our daily lives.

Of course, wearable technology covers a broad spectrum with smart watches, fitness bands and smart glasses the most well-known. Apple and Samsung already offer smart watches that link to mobile phones, as well as working in their own right give users access to apps and the ability to communicate. Google Glass – possibly the most prominent of wearable technology to date (which is currently being redesigned following the beta testing) – allows wearers to take photos and video.

So what are the opportunities for wearable technology within corporate and industrial environments?

An emerging area with both consumer and commercial applications is virtual reality headsets. Developers of these are exploiting opportunities not just for gaming but also for training, teaching and even design.

One of the pioneers of glasses and augmented reality products is Vuzix. Partnering with the likes of SAP and ArcSoft, their offerings include warehouse management systems. Another innovative application is a collaboration with Pristine – their EyeSight video communication product allows colleagues to securely collaborate and solve problems hands-free.

A different type of wearable technology altogether was recently announced by Fujitsu. This takes the form of a glove with a NFC (near field communication) tag reader and a gesture-based input for maintenance and other operations. This type of innovation takes the technology in bluetooth-enabled gloves to a completely new level.

Fujitsu glove device (source: Fujitsu)

Meanwhile at Motorola, the HC1 headset offers an extremely powerful tool for technicians and remote workers needing either documentation or support from colleagues or 3rd parties. A simple voice command or turn or the head can give users the information they need with no hands or computer required.

Motorola headset computer (Source: Motorola)

For wearables to be achieve widespread adoption in industrial areas, they need to be non-disruptive and enhance performance, as opposed to being an inconvenience. Clearly, some of the technology shown above is not for everyone – at the current time they have specific applications and a ubiquitous wearable technology is some way off (indeed it may well never appear).

However, with the technology being seen as such a high-growth opportunity, and consumers already adopting wearable technology in their daily lives (both as add-ons to mobile phones and as standalone fitness aids), it seems inevitable that wearable technology will become an extension to our everyday computing and digital connections, perhaps ultimately taking over from the humble mobile phone.