September 5, 2017
For this article, I went shopping—online, that is. I’m an enterprise wearables expert, and I must admit I don’t know much about consumer wearables. I work out regularly but don’t own a fitness tracker, and haven’t worn my Apple Watch in months. But I suspect there is enterprise potential in many of the wearable devices available to consumers today, so I did some web browsing.
Consumer wearables fall into several categories, including brain-sensing headbands and smart jewelry. I searched for devices in each category that might be useful in enterprise settings. Keep in mind that I have not tried many of these wearables myself but assuming they deliver on what they’re advertised to do, here’s what I found:
Myo by Thalmic Labs
Myo is an armband that lets the wearer control other connected devices using gesture and motion. With SDKs available for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android, developers have a lot of freedom to build applications for Myo, beyond just controlling a smartphone or delivering a presentation. For instance, surgeons in Spain are using the device to navigate medical records while in the O.R. Think of it as a touch-free mouse for your technology.
RE-vibe by FokusLabs
RE-vibe is an anti-distraction wristband that uses gentle vibrations at strategic intervals to keep the wearer attentive and on-task. The technology “encourages mindfulness while studying or at work.” I can only picture RE-vibe entering the workplace as a personal device, not as an employer-provided wearable. Those of us sitting at a desk right now have certainly struggled to focus after a restless night (and with all the political news taking over our Twitter feeds.)
Steer by Creative Mode
Like the SmartCap, this wrist wearable is designed to prevent drivers from falling asleep at the wheel. Steer detects changes in heart rate and skin conductance, establishing a baseline when the user first puts on the device and giving a warning – first a slight vibration, then a gentle shock – when those metrics fall to a certain degree below that line. The shock increases serotonin, cortisol and other hormones to keep the driver awake. Steer could be used as an alternative to SmartCap by companies interested in avoiding fatigue-related accidents on the job.
Myo offers control, RE-vibe helps you focus, and Steer keeps you awake and alert—all potentially useful at work. TouchPoints offer stress relief in as little as 30 seconds, which would undoubtedly appeal to many workers. These stress-relieving, wrist-worn “neuroscientific wearables” work by reducing physical sensations and shifting “fight or flight” to alter the body’s stress mechanism. Work is often stressful—you might take a break or practice meditation, or you could use TouchPoints for fast relief right on your wrist.
Patches and Clip-ons
Wearsafe by Wearsafe Labs
Wearsafe is “a modern-day, mobile panic button” that can be clipped onto any piece of clothing. By pressing it, Wearsafe uses the wearer’s smartphone to instantly send an alert to friends and family. Wearsafe Labs’ website has an enterprise section, because “safe employees are productive employees.” In its pitch to employers, the company describes Wearsafe as a “safety service designed to connect and protect your staff” in case of an accident, incident or crisis. The dashboard Wearsafe.help combines alert management, dispatch aid and incident reporting.
Lumo Lift by Lumo BodyTech
Lumo Lift is a “posture coach and activity tracker.” Once you connect the device to the Lumo Lift app on your phone, you attach it to your shirt and set a target posture; every time you slouch thereafter, Lumo Lift vibrates to tell you to sit straighter. Lumo does market its product as a tool for corporate wellness programs, noting that back pain is a top reason for missed workdays and doctor visits as well as a leading cause of disability claims. The company already counts Facebook, ExxonMobil and Nestle among its customers.
Upright GO and Upright PRO by Upright Technologies
This wearable posture trainer also vibrates to correct the user’s posture, but it’s only meant to be worn (attached to the back with an adhesive) for short “training sessions” of up to 60 minutes a day. Users can review their progress on the connected app, and hopefully improve their posture over time. As stated on Upright’s website, 86% of U.S. workers sit for the entire workday, increasing their risk of obesity, musculoskeletal problems, and diabetes. Employers might consider investing in the Upright PRO or the newer Upright GO (simpler, single-sensor device) to help employees reduce back pain.
There are many smart clothing products out there including socks and high-fashion pieces, but sensor-equipped exercise clothes clearly dominate. These garments track motion, heart rate, body temp and location; monitor air quality and UV exposure; and even pay for things. I don’t see why similar technology could not be incorporated into standard work uniforms. There are smart construction vests and other PPE designed for industry, so why not smart nursing scrubs or maintenance uniforms?
This company makes a range of smart clothing items, including an electronic heating garment that keeps wearers warm (ThermoMan;) clothing that lights up to provide visibility in dark surroundings (NeonMan;) and anti-radiation textiles (ShieldMan.) There are certainly enterprise use cases for tracking or regulating workers’ body temperature and keeping them safe in dark or nighttime conditions.
Lumo Run by Lumo BodyTech
Lumo also makes a device that clips onto running shorts—not exactly smart clothing but what it does is monitor cadence, ground contact time, pelvic rotation and stride length. The accompanying Lumo Run app supports real-time coaching, sending feedback to the user’s headphones. A similar feature in enterprise might give a worker advice for moving with “good ergonomics” in real time, right in her ear.
Samsung NFC suit
According to Wareable, you can purchase this smart suit in Korea under Samsung’s wearable brand The Human Fit. The connected business suit allows the wearer to do things like unlock his phone and digitally swap business cards. I don’t see this idea catching on in America but wearable-enabled networking (perhaps activated by a handshake) is something I can get behind.
There have been efforts to monitor workers’ movement on the job, from their posture (see above) to how they lift heavy items. There are many form factors for gathering biometrics; and though it may be more accurate to take some measurements from one part of the body over another, work clothes and uniforms are prime, underdeveloped real estate for wearable sensors.
The ear has become another popular body part for fitness tracking, as well as for controlling smartphone features, noise cancelling/augmenting, and real-time translation. Those last two applications have real enterprise potential, in noisy workplaces and multilingual work scenarios.
Here One by Doppler Labs
These wireless Here Buds combine “premium audio” for music and calls, noise cancellation, speech enhancement, and Siri/Google Now controls. The user can control how he or she hears the world via the connected app—with layered listening, manipulation of real-world volume and sound, and smart noise filters. Here One is pricey and likely to remain in the realm of personal wearables (there are cheaper noise-cancelling devices out there;) yet if the noise altering features are as sophisticated as claimed, these earbuds could be ideal for blocking unwanted, distracting or distressing sounds at work while “keeping” the noise essential to one’s task.
Did you know that high-level noise, like that from factory equipment or heavy machinery on a job site, can actually damage your hearing? Tens of millions of Americans are occupationally exposed to harmful noise, which not only puts them at risk of hearing loss but also heart disease.
Pilot by Waverly Labs
This “real-time translation hearable” consists of earbuds that translate between two users speaking different languages. In the first earpiece, noise-cancelling microphones filter out ambient noise from the wearer who is talking, while the second earpiece returns the translation to the other person in real time. Speech recognition, machine learning and speech synthesis technologies do the actual translating through the Pilot app. Pilot pre-orders come with free access to Romance languages.
Translate One2One by Lingmo
This AI-powered earpiece claims to translate spoken conversation and written text within 3-5 seconds without relying on Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity. The solution uses IBM Watson’s Natural Language technology to help perform the translation, and currently supports English, Japanese, French, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Portuguese, German and Chinese. Both the speaker and listener must be wearing an earpiece.
Clik by Mymanu
Marriott is reportedly interested in these wireless smart earphones to help staff at its hotels communicate with guests. Clik uses voice recognition technology to near instantly translate live conversation in 37 languages. On the companion smartphone app, users can download 9 language packs, which can be synced and stored on the buds. Like the previous product, Clik doesn’t require a data connection.
There are plenty of customer service and international business scenarios where in-ear translation could greatly improve communication, service and productivity. Hotel staff might better serve foreign-speaking guests, negotiations with foreign business partners might go more smoothly, and colleagues speaking different languages might be able to better collaborate on projects, etc.
Personal Safety Wearables
Many of the personal safety wearables are designed for and marketed to women and the elderly, but the ones that follow – like Wearsafe – could potentially be worn by lone (travelling) workers such as in-home caregivers and utilities workers.
This smart ring works as a panic button, tracking the wearer’s location and sending an emergency alert when pressed through the Nimb app to a pre-managed group of responders.
With the watchOS 3 update, Apple has added an SOS mode to its smartwatch. By holding down the side button, Apple Watch will attempt to call local emergency services either via cellular (if your iPhone is nearby) or over Wi-Fi. A text message can also be sent to preset SOS contacts after the call ends.
This emerging technology startup recently announced partnerships with several wearable tech companies allowing them to link their wearable products to RapidSOS’s advanced emergency platform.
The finger is another spot for activity tracking, viewing smartphone notifications, and contactless payments.
According to OURA’s website, our fingers provide more accurate activity tracking than our wrists. This “sleep tracker and wellness ring ” senses arteries in the fingers to provide insight into how users’ lifestyle choices affect their sleep and performance. Employers should be concerned about how much sleep employees are getting, especially in jobs where fatigue might threaten worker safety or lead to costly errors. Should truck drivers, for instance, show up for work when they’re overtired? What about your heavy machinery operators or store employees who need to make a good impression on your customers? Lack of sleep negatively impacts one’s daily performance, slowing productivity and increasing the likelihood of having an on-the-job accident.
This smart ring can be used to unlock your mobile devices or even your door (if you have an NFC-enabled door lock.) It can share and transfer information such as links, photos and contacts, control smartphone applications, and make payments. As mobile payments become more mainstream, I wonder what will become of our plastic credit cards. What if instead of a store credit card, a retailer offered a store smart ring or another wearable payment method just for use in its stores. Visa has been experimenting with creating different types of wearable payments, including a ring and a wearable sticker; and Tappy Technologies is a company that embeds payment functionality in watches and jewelry. Tappy has its own smart payment ring and also provides its technology to jewelry companies to develop their own products.
This category appears focused on improving mental well-being, sleep and even dreams; stimulating the mind during tasks; or helping with memory and performance—all of which have obvious implications for our work lives. Most of the devices use EEG technology and are not medically approved.
Thync bills its product as “the first consumer health solution for lowering stress and anxiety.” This small triangular device worn at the back of the neck uses low-level electrical stimulation to activate nerves affecting the brain’s adrenaline system. The simulation patterns trigger natural mechanisms that relax the wearer, and improve mood and sleep.
Lowdown Focus by Smith Optics
These smart sunglasses use brain-sensing technology to help athletes and other active users perform well under pressure through “mental training sessions.” The technology measures brain activity and provides cues to the wearer for becoming more calm, relaxed and focused.
Brainstation by Neuroverse
Neuroverse has apparently been working on Brainstation, a small oval wearable that adheres to the forehead, for several years now. The device puts the wearer through a series of “brain training games” designed to promote neuroplasticity, or the forming of new connections in the brain. EEG sensors detect certain neural markers to monitor the games’ effects on the user’s reaction times, attention span, memory and decision making. Neuroverse also opened its API for Brainstation VR, a version of its solution that would enable mind control of objects and actions in Virtual Reality and that works with game engines like Unity.
Final verdict: While it’s certainly advantageous to be aware of what’s available on the consumer side – especially if you have a specific EHS or employee well-being concern in the workplace – consumer wearables seem to enter and disappear from the marketplace at a much higher rate than enterprise devices. There are many crowdfunding campaigns and nearly all of the devices have to be paired with a smartphone app. My sense is that the consumer wearable tech market is a bit fickle because it’s still trying to understand the end user. As an enterprise, I’d worry about investing in 500 devices that may not have an ecosystem to support them within a year. Looking at consumer wearables, however, is less about finding actual products to use in your organization today than getting a sense of what wearable technologies are capable of and how wearable companies are attempting to augment and empower human beings.
About EWTS Fall 2017:
The Fall Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit 2017 taking place October 18-19, 2017 in Boston, MA is the leading event for wearable technology in enterprise. It is also the only true enterprise event in the wearables space, with the speakers and audience members hailing from top enterprise organizations across the industry spectrum. Consisting of real-world case studies, engaging workshops, and expert-led panel discussions on such topics as enterprise applications for Augmented and Virtual Reality, head-mounted displays, and body-worn devices, plus key challenges, best practices, and more; EWTS is the best opportunity for you to hear and learn from those organizations who have successfully utilized wearables in their operations.