Are Wearable Computers Useful for Business?

Are Wearable Computers Useful for Business?

August 1

Even if they aren’t quite in the mainstream, wearable computers are certainly becoming a hot topic. Online you’ll find video recordings by wearers of Google Glass (people getting in fights, fire breathers, etc.), and any tech site is riddled with the latest news and rumors of the iWatch, Sony’s SmartWatch 2, or the Kickstarter-funded Pebble.

Although wearable computers and other smart devices are becoming more popular, a recent telephone survey of about a thousand Americans revealed that only 42 percent of respondents of all ages, incomes, and education levels said they would buy a smart watch, while only 39 percent would buy smart glasses.  Basically, less than half were currently interested in this technology—probably because they force you to look like hipsters with lensless glasses, and invite criminals to chop off your wrist to steal your watch.

Interestingly enough, none of the survey respondents have used these devices, and only a handful of the general population have used them at all. The survey was also taken well in advance of the public release of any of the wearable computers (first generation Sony SmartWatch notwithstanding), so really, these may not have been the best informed respondents. The survey respondents were end-users, though the survey was partially designed to determine how much demand companies may have for these and what sort of resources they’ll need to incorporate for them, it seems that these devices haven’t been used for business yet. But will they be?

It’s tough to say how useful they’ll be since they’re largely untested in the business world, and not many business applications have been developed. For an office jockey like me, though, there probably aren’t too many practical uses for wearable tech yet. I’ve already got a monitor, a laptop screen, my phone, and my iPad winking at me for a lot of the day. Would I really use another screen on my wrist or a tiny one right by my eyeball? Plus, won’t people be extremely weirded-out when I break the bro code by going to the bathroom with my video-ready Google Glass?

“Hey James. Oh, my glasses? I’m broadcasting a video stream. Get it? Ha!”

While it might not make sense for cube warriors like me right now, according a CRN interview with Allen Falcon, CEO of Google partner Cumulus Global, Google Glass could have practical business applications in a variety of industries,

Long term, I could see it going to industries where having a heads-up display would be useful. I’m thinking of environments like warehousing and distribution where you can have product location information projected directly to folks responsible for that, and still have them be able to use both hands. I could also see it being used in medical research and in pharmacy research, or basically any kind of lab environment where your hands are busy, but you still need to convey or record information.

So it’s not hopeless. There are uses in certain trades if you can stand to look goofy. Other potential uses for smart glasses could be things like translations for people travelling to foreign countries, or to assist presenters with onscreen text. Smart watches and other wearable computers might allow you to use everything from biometric functions to dozens of health-related functions, along with James Bond-ish things like wrist-based communication. Right now, the technology in both smart watches and smart glasses are in their early generations, and they don’t seem particularly useful for business, though there’s no saying what sort of things these devices will be capable of in the next ten years. We’ll have to just wait and see.

Wearable computers are great, but what if you could access the cloud with your brain? Check out this article to learn more.


Photo Credit: John Biehler via Compfight cc