Cost and Implementation of Wearables in the Workplace

Written BY

Emily Friedman

August 4, 2015

Today, we will discuss cost and implementation as a major barrier to wearables proving their worth in the workplace.

Cost & Implementation

Let’s face it, wearable technology is expensive: Many of the devices currently on the market are pretty pricey, even by enterprise standards. Let’s take a look at some numbers…

The first edition of Google Glass came at the hefty price of $1,500 a pair, while the Vuzix M100 Smart Glasses cost about $1,000; but that’s “nothing” compared to ODG’s R-7 Glasses, which you can pre-order for a whopping $2,750. A decent smart watch runs anywhere from around $200 to $400 for the top-model Apple Watch Sport; and even your basic Fitbit costs upwards of $100. Now perhaps purchasing a personal Apple Watch won’t cause a major dent in your wallet; but just put yourself in the place of a warehouse manager, having to outfit your entire workforce with wearable gadgets costing hundreds of dollars “a pop.” It’s just not feasible from a cost perspective unless you have thoroughly tested the use case and can guarantee ROI.

For some companies, cost may be a non-issue. Most retailers, however, no matter their size and industry position, are very capital-constrained and wary of major investments in technology targeted towards employees. And while wearable tech applications are currently being tested in ambulances, police forces, and fire departments across the U.S.; finances are nevertheless a major impediment to widespread use of wearables in the public sector. Most fire departments, for example, just do not have the funding to upgrade to the latest technology, no matter how beneficial (and even life-saving) the tech may be.

But the potential total cost is more than the sum of the hardware, so to speak—There are other cost factors involved in enterprise adoption of wearable tech. You see, the benefits of wearable technology – those being touted in article after article now that the media has shifted its attention from consumer to enterprise in its coverage of wearables (and to a lesser extent the IoT) – come at a significant price beyond the cost of the various devices. In order to realize such productivity benefits as free-flowing business interactions, instantaneous notetaking, and experience sharing among colleagues; businesses will have to pay for the technology plus the added cost of governance, risk and compliance. In other words, it’s not just the hardware: Organizations also need to consider all that goes into implementing new technology, including new or updated software and hiring IT specialists.

Many sources agree, the enterprise wearable technology market is still maturing. In order for wearables to live up to their potential in business today, the devices need to be somewhat customized for each user case, or at the very least for each industry sector. We’re not at the “plug-and-play” stage yet; there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to wearable tech for enterprise applications. Not only are the devices not all that reasonably priced, but to customize a wearable tech program for one’s business is even more costly. And “to make matters worse,” an organization’s failure to understand the solution stack at this early stage can severely slow down the implementation process, and increase costs.

How do you, for instance, justify supplying all your workers with smart glasses as a construction industry leader when the hardware costs over a grand a piece and there’s plenty of opportunity for damage to or loss of the devices. And let’s not forget all the players you need to bring in – and pay – just to integrate the new technology into your operations and existing IT structure or software platform.

While it’s easy to excite enterprise users with wearable gadgets and the many potential benefits of wearable technology in enterprise settings; the products themselves need to become more reasonably priced – on top of ensuring data privacy and supporting a longer battery life – before they can really become “business mainstream.” And organizations must think beyond the cost of the hardware, as it may be an equally big challenge – and an even greater cost – to fit wearable tech into the existing enterprise architecture, and to make wearables interoperate with existing platforms and devices.

Of course, when the potential cost savings of adopting wearable tech stand to be in the millions, even billions, of dollars in certain industries (oil and gas, for one); all such initial cost considerations as the price of the devices (buy in bulk, why don’t you), and whatever it takes to get the technology “up and running,” secure, and interoperating within the existing IT architecture, become much less of a barrier. As SalesForce has reported, field service companies are already witnessing the impact of wearable technology; smart glasses are enabling those in the field service industry to solve issues faster and thereby save millions of dollars. When you consider this, $1,500 for a pair of Google Glass suddenly seems like something to sneeze at.

Further Reading