Wearable technology isn’t just for consumers. Yes, we’re all enamoured with Google Glass, FitBits and even biometric clothing. But that’s only one half of the wearables story. Much more lucrative, as far as the manufacturers are concerned, are the commercial applications of all this new high-tech gadgetry – and it seems that some businesses are already welcoming wearables into their business model with open arms.
Perhaps the most noticeable of these is the high-profile Virgin Airlines. Never shy of grabbing a bit of publicity, Richard’s cabin crew have been making sure that customers checking into their premier ‘Upper Class Wing’ get a truly personalised service, thanks to Google Glass. Concierges in the lounge greet passengers by name, thanks to data provided straight to them by the Glass. They can also give them detailed information about their flight and even the weather at the passenger’s destination – all thanks to an ability to access real-time information via Glass.
But is this just a gimmick, or does it demonstrate just how easily wearables (and in this case Augmented Reality) could be incorporated into a customer-facing situation, rather than just in the logistics sector as previously thought? Virgin seems to think that technology like the Glass is perfect for their business model, and believe that it allows them to provide a much more ‘personalised’ service for each and every passenger that passes through their lounge. In their terms, it could put the ‘sheen’ back on the whole flying experience, and is certainly something that the rest of the hospitality industry could adopt just as easily.
Solving logistical challenges
Wearables in the workplace are, to be honest, a no-brainer. Any tool (including wearables) that makes a process more streamlined, more efficient and more cost-effective has to be a serious consideration for any industry. Tesco supermarket was one of the first in the consumables industry to adopt wearable tech in its warehouses to help pickers and workers find specific products faster and more efficiently. Biometric sensors tell the manager where everyone is, so that they can direct the nearest picker to a specific product to minimise wasted time and increase efficiency.
Again, examples such as this show that in the logistics industry in particular, wearables could make a massive difference in the efficiency of a business, especially larger organisations where workforces are spread over several different locations. Having a central point that can distribute information to each worker immediately and effectively could create a ‘hive’ mind, that in turn could lead to massive increases in productivity and efficiency.
How do workers feel about it?
But there may be a negative aspect to all this that as yet needs to be addressed – how the workers themselves feel about being in effect ‘controlled’ in their daily work routine by technology. It’s even got its own name – ‘physiolytics’, which is defined as the practice of linking wearable computing devices with data analysis and quantified feedback to improve performance. However, what one manager regards as ‘improvement in performance’ could be considered by their workers as exerting undue pressure in the workplace. A fine balance has to be maintained to ensure that enhanced performance doesn’t carry with it an unexpected cost – the moral of the workforce.
Wearables – the future
It’s pretty clear that wearables are the next ‘big thing’ in technology, and R&D experts such as Plastic Logic believe that the advent of flexible screen and organic electronics is going to be a huge influence in both our personal and our working lives in the future. “Plastic Logic’s flexible plastic displays are completely transformational in terms of product interaction,” said Plastic Logic CEO Indro Mukerjee recently. “Flexible electronics is a reality, already proven through the development and manufacture of plastic, bendable displays and sensors. For the first time a fully organic, plastic, flexible AMOLED demonstration has been achieved with a real industrial fabrication process. This marks the start of a revolution in wearable products, the next frontier in consumer electronics – 2014 will be the year that wearable technology starts to go mainstream.”
The business community – from hospitality and logistics through to the medical profession, care workers and even office-based companies – would do well to listen to those words. Now all you need to do is convince the workforce…
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- Which industries are embracing wearable technology? - September 2, 2014