The Future of Wearables: Consumer vs. Enterprise

Written BY

Emily Friedman

June 29, 2015

How are wearable devices going to evolve? (And evolve they must.) Already we’re seeing a sort of split, with consumers gravitating towards the wrist – i.e. smart watches and smart bands – and enterprises making use of those smart glasses that haven’t caught on much in the consumer space. And then there’s this imagined showdown between Apple and Fitbit, in which Apple (with the Apple Watch) is threatening to dethrone Fitbit as the king of consumer wearable tech. Some say the Apple Watch will “kill” Fitbit; others say it won’t—I don’t think they’re even playing in the same ring, since Apple is attempting fitness tracking and much more with the iWatch while Fitbit has always focused on fitness/health.

Now bear with me, I believe consumer and enterprise wearables are going to evolve into radically different devices with differing functions as well as appearances. Consumer smart watches are going to be quite different from enterprise-grade smart watches; and the same goes for smart glasses, including virtual reality & augmented reality headsets. VR may be too immersive for enterprise, suitable for training purposes and little more; whereas augmenting reality to assist workers in completing tasks – say, on the factory floor – is much more appropriate/ideal. Wearable manufacturers are already heading in this direction, focusing their attention either on the consumer market or the enterprise.

So how will consumer and enterprise wearable devices fundamentally differ? Perhaps in the same way that the Apple Watch and Fitbit fundamentally differ. Wearables can either have “singular” (i.e. more limited) functions or they can aim to “do it all” (a la the Apple Watch). Devices with more limited functionality (not including fitness trackers) may find their niche in the enterprise, where they won’t replace traditional mobile devices but rather supplement them (even those wearables deemed “standalone,” i.e. not tethered to a smartphone). There will be tasks for which such limited wearables will prove ideal, and tasks where a smartphone or tablet will suffice. And by limited I mean enterprise wearable devices will likely have one to three really key (and accurate) functions. Consumers, on the other hand, are used to doing everything on one device. They’ll want a perfect smart watch with lots of sensors, apps and capabilities that will enable them to be even more mobile and keep their phones in their pockets.

So then how would an enterprise smart watch function? And how will the two categories differ in appearance? Will consumer wearables be sleeker or perhaps more ordinary-looking than enterprise devices? We already know that design/fashion is more of a consideration in consumer tech than industrial. Will consumer wearables have to “blend in” in order to gain widespread acceptance?

I’m just daydreaming (and somewhat rambling) here. I do believe consumer and enterprise wearables are going to be vastly different, but I’m not entirely sure how. Comment with your thoughts on the future of wearables.

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