Practical Advice for Enterprise Wearables

Written BY

Emily Friedman

October 19, 2016

Recognizing what is cool versus what is possible today

Getting practical: No-nonsense, real-world, from-the-trenches advice and tips

In sharing their experiences with wearable tech, the presenters and panelists at EWTS 2016 divulged some great advice for those enterprise representatives in the audience responsible for evaluating and piloting wearables. The speakers were realistic about the abilities and shortcomings of current technology offerings, as well as the difficulties of implementing wearables in the workplace today. In this post, we will share some of their practical advice, tips, best practices, and lessons learned.

Zebra Technologies’ Tom Bianculli kicked off the event with a spectacular keynote in which he said, “Don’t do it because you can but because it’s the right thing to do.” Of course he was referring to adopting wearable technology in your organization; and if you were to take just one piece of advice away from EWTS ’16, it would be wise to soak in Tom’s words.

Zac Penix of AES shared a few practical tips, including keeping things simple (it doesn’t take a complicated wearable to give workers the info they need to stay safe); as well as a useful heads-up: “No matter how much or how well you plan, expect that [the] devices will fail because the supporting markets just aren’t there yet to make a robust-enough solution.” So don’t get discouraged–have realistic expectations and prepare for the devices to possibly fail or fall short of the vision we all have for the technology’s future. The goal of a pilot is really to determine if wearable technology might improve aspects of your business. A pilot is more of an inquiry, experimenting with different form factors and applications to see if wearables are a road your organization should go down.

The BMW use case presented by Dr. Jorg Schulte is a great example to follow: As Jorg told it, BMW practically evaluated smart glass technology to determine its future potential without getting discouraged or abandoning the technology altogether:

“Bottom line: A year ago when we began our studies, the technology [the hardware] was not where it needs to be, and we were [also] not prepared internally. The lesson is to take steps like these pilots in order to gain a greater understanding, to find out what’s missing and get feedback so that once the tech matures, we will be ready as an organization to roll it out. We do see big benefits in multiple application areas, and hopefully at the end of the day this will result in better product quality. We see the hardware challenges becoming resolved over time.”

Intel’s Chris Croteau spoke to the same idea: “[The way] you are going to start realizing tangible benefits is not by a ‘forklift’ upgrade of your entire infrastructure over 18 months [but rather] through trial and error: Putting devices into the environment and learning how your [organization’s] security access needs to change, how your information management needs to change, how worker behavior and attitude will change, how the unions are going to react…”

Once again, a pilot is trial and error, an indicator and not definitive proof, a pathway towards those tangible benefits and large-scale improvements.

Joakim Elvander of Sony really “hit the nail on the head” with the following observation and advice on how to choose the right device:

“It may seem that over the past half-year or so, general understanding of AR/VR has increased but [still] customer expectation is a bit more on the sci-fi side [as opposed to] practical business solutions. Sometimes they display more enthusiasm over the technology than over really [well-]thought-out use cases that need in-field-of-view information…Our device [the Sony SmartEyeglass] isn’t really suitable for MR or VR.”

What the SmartEyeglass is well-suited for are those use cases requiring critical information displayed right in the worker’s field of view, cases in which “hands-free context and comfortability” as opposed to a highly immersive experience are essential.

Joakim and Chris prove that the solution side has also become more realistic, even somewhat conservative. Solution providers are not trying to sell you a romantic vision; we all want to see wearables transform the enterprise.

*All quotes are transcribed from the sessions and presentations given at EWTS, June 16-17, 2016 in Atlanta, GA, and therefore may not be exact.

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