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How Your Business Can Begin Using Wearable Tech Today

Written BY

Emily Friedman

May 18, 2015

You don’t need to overhaul your business – your operations or on the IT front – or rollout hundreds of devices with heavily customized software to begin taking advantage of what wearable technology has to offer to the enterprise. There are some “simple” ways to incorporate wearables in the workplace that can lead to key improvements for your business. In this post, we will explore a number of the more straightforward or seemingly simple use cases of wearable devices from across the industry spectrum. These cases highlight how wearable tech can be used to determine real, positive changes in your business by measuring the effectiveness of your current business plan, whether that be the layout of an office space (how office layout affects interaction among workers) or an airline’s in-flight experience.

Bank of America
In 2009, employees at one of BoA’s call centers were given smart badges developed by Sociometric Solutions. The goal of the 6-week wearable pilot was to figure out how coworkers interact with one another in the office. To that end, various sensors built into the badges recorded employees’ movements (ex. where they walked) as well as who they talked to and how (ex. tone of voice). The collected data ultimately provided unique & invaluable insight into how the call center operated: it turned out that employees who were more social – those who frequently engaged with their colleagues – were also more productive. As a result, BoA changed the office structure of that particular call center to encourage socialization amongst workers. This employee-facing application of wearable tech involved simply tracking workers (no corporate data was accessible via the devices), and yet the results led to real, productive changes in the workplace environment.

Westin Hotels & Resorts
The hotel brand launched a customer-facing wearable tech program, in which guests at eight of Westin’s properties were offered sleep-sensing wristbands manufactured by Lark Technologies. Along with an app, the wristbands tracked wearers’ sleep patterns & provided virtual coaching to improve their sleep quality. Participants generally benefitted from using the sleep sensors.
This application of wearable health-tracking technology to aid guests’ wellbeing is a step in the right direction for the travel & hospitality industry. The Westin pilot program – essentially a customer service initiative – amounts to a really simple way to begin to incorporate or introduce WT in a hotel’s business.

Hitachi
The Tokyo-based engineering & electronics company developed its own wearable device, the Hitachi Business Microscope – a gadget worn on a lanyard around the neck, similar to a company ID badge – to measure & manage employee interaction. The HBM is packed with sensors monitoring such things as how the wearer moves & communicates as well as environmental factors like light & temp. Essentially, the device can track where employees travel in an office, recognize to whom they’re speaking, and measure how well they’re speaking (ex. how energetically). The goal of this project was to plot employee networks in order to better understand how workers interact & collaborate with one another. Presumably, the data will provide management with invaluable insight into the company’s workforce dynamics, inspiring ideas & methods for how to boost communication & productivity in the workplace.

QAD
This enterprise resource planning software company has been using Google Glass to record short interviews of new employees in an effort to quickly introduce the “new guy” to the whole QAD team. See, QAD is a global company, with most employees working outside the corporate office. The Glass-recorded interviews enable everybody to meet the new hire on his very first day. So simple and yet such a great office use case for Glass & other smartglasses.

British Airways
The airline experimented with a blanket & Bluetooth headband combo that reflects passengers’ emotional states or moods by subtly shifting colors in an effort to provide more responsive customer service. Imaginably, such a wearable device could be used to test the relative success of changes in the in-flight experience, on top of alerting flight attendants to passengers’ satisfaction & discomfort. For example, say British Airways were to introduce a new menu or alter its seat design; the smart blanket would presumably be able to test how such changes impact passengers’ comfort & happiness. In this case, wearable tech acts almost as an informal survey of the in-flight passenger experience.

Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop Chain
At Capriotti’s, Google Glass is used for employee training. Not only are the smartglasses used to film first-person perspective training videos, they also serve as a tool to record & review new recruits’ work with the goal of improving performance. This is a simple use case as it merely exploits Glass’ built-in video recording capabilities. In addition, Capriotti’s is employing Google Glass to record the lunchtime rush; managers can later assess the footage to identify areas for improvement.

Copenhagen Airport
In one of the simplest trials of wearable tech in an airport environment, Copenhagen Airport partnered with SITA to equip & train two airport duty managers with Google Glass. Over a 2-month period, the managers used Glass to do such things as answer passengers’ questions on the spot & document issues arising from the common use nature of airport facilities. The wearable device eliminated the need for carrying around duty rosters, desk allocation sheets, passenger numbers, cruise arrivals, etc., leaving the duty managers hands-free to provide better, more engaged customer service. It is no surprise that the airport received positive feedback from both staff & passengers. What makes the case so simple is the fact that the wearable technology, although web-enabled, was not integrated with the airport’s central database system; Copenhagen Airport pretty much made use of Glass right out of the box (with a few tweaks by SITA).

While some argue that most wearable devices currently on the market are not quite enterprise-ready, and while integrating wearable tech into a business’ operations can be a very complicated undertaking; the above cases prove that there are “easy” applications out there for wearables in the workplace–you just have to be creative. And while Google Glass is expensive (and not all that readily available) and several of the above devices were custom-built solutions; similar applications can be accomplished by simple smart bands, smartwatches and other smart glasses on the market. Can you think of any other simple use cases of WT in the enterprise?

Further Reading