June 8, 2015
Numerous articles site privacy and security as the biggest barriers to the growth of wearables in the enterprise, but the unfortunate truth is that there are a number of challenges – some universal and others more industry- (or office-) specific – holding wearable technology back in the workplace. We have divided these challenges into 2 categories: Technical and Cultural/Organizational.
The technical challenges facing enterprise adoption of wearables include such issues as battery life and data security. These are problems for the “tech wizzes” to resolve, and as the technology and related software advances over time, such factors will no longer restrain enterprise adoption of wearable tech. The ultimate resolution of many cultural and organizational challenges, on the other hand, is more “up in the air.” Whether factors such as privacy and compliance with regulatory agencies will continue to limit enterprise use of wearables depends upon how the adopting companies – the enterprise end users – handle the change over to this new wave of mobile technology.
In this blog series, we will explore some of the main challenges to realizing the full potential of wearable tech in business & industry. In this first installment of the series, two technical challenges – battery & durability and user interface & experience – will be discussed in some detail.
Battery & Durability
There are concerns across all industries about whether current wearable device offerings are truly ready for the enterprise, and the general consensus is that they’re not. For one, battery life is a major limiting factor. Most current models offer hours of occasional use and up to 45 minutes of continual use before requiring a recharge. Such a short battery life means that most wearables are not currently capable of lasting through an entire retail or warehouse shift, or of sustaining a video conference long enough for an expert to guide a less experienced worker through the repair of a complex piece of equipment.
Then, there is the matter of the “robustness” or durability of current models, many of which cannot be deemed entirely field-proof and are thus ill suited for heavy industry. In its current (“Explorer”) form, for instance, Google Glass is incompatible with the standard firefighter oxygen mask—the device doesn’t fit inside the mask, limiting its use to external personnel during a fire. So, Glass cannot be used inside a burning building; and it’s also not really suitable for use on an oilrig, as there is no impact-rated version of the device.
And it’s not just Glass: most currently available wearables are not rugged enough for a high-risk job site. They’re not temperature-, weather- or chemical-proof; they’re just not durable. And yet, as demand increases for wearable technology in business & industry – as more use cases become apparent – we will surely see more practical, rugged and tailored form factors.
User Interface & Experience
When it comes to wearable technology in the workplace (as opposed to the consumer realm), experience and engagement matter more than aesthetics and fashion. Function trumps form in many job settings (especially in industry): if the wearable device helps a worker to do his job better, and as long as it is not considered to be obtrusive/distracting, unsafe or creepy, then the user experience should be a positive (and willing) one.
Issues arise, however, when you consider that current wearable devices do not have standard user interfaces. Imaginably, this would prevent users from comprehending the data emanating from various devices, and damage perception of the value of wearable tech in business. For wearables to be truly useful to enterprise workers, they need to deliver data that’s not just informative but also prescriptive. The problem is: it’s not yet clear just what to do with the data harnessed by wearables; and, in addition, many are skeptical of the accuracy of this data. Forget not knowing how to “act on” the data; if the information is inaccurate, it’s pretty much useless.