Is 2015 the year wearables enter the workplace?

By Alyson Edmunds, Mobility Expert at Telefónica UK

It could be a smartwatch, a fit band, body worn video or wearable fabric? Either way I’m interested to hear if your business is considering wearables in 2015?

I get the feeling that many organisations are still searching for that one killer business benefit that will bring wearables into the enterprise environment. But looking at the hoard of new devices set to launch in 2015, one thing is for sure it won’t be for the lack of trying by the device manufacturers.

Regardless of whether manufactures find the business ‘holy grail’ or not, IT teams will certainly have to plan for an eventuality of wearables becoming part of the workplace. There was a predicted one million new wearable devices sold in the UK over the festive period*, and with many businesses only just getting to grips with BYOD, BYOW is likely to be the next workplace trend driven by employees.

I’ve believed that wearables can work for business for a while now and think this video of the Moto 360 brings it to life. The power of information on the wrist has the potential to be huge for employee productivity. Wearables will allow employees to snack on small snippets of information that require simple response actions allowing for real time updates during tasks. What once required secure logins and free hands to access a laptop or smartphone can be done at the push of a button or command of a voice. The only question for me will be if the apps are there ready to fit this rising demand for ‘data snacking’.

Picture a rail engineer: They need to be able to quickly locate a particular section of track. If work is required they are likely to be wearing protective clothing and will need their hands free to access tools. Having the power of a smartwatch on their wrist means that they can navigate to a particular section of track, receive updated them job allocations and track their own progress from the convenience of their wrist.

Body worn video is another interesting one to watch. The wearable technology protects both citizens and the professionals with the use of video recording. Police officers, social workers, and security guards can overtly record situations and water mark the footage for evidential use if necessary.

There is however three main areas you must consider before rolling out wearables or a BYOW strategy?

1) Security

Any employee with a device that stores information can be at risk of compromising data security – this is not news to IT managers. The challenge for wearables comes with the fact that Mobile Device Management (MDM) providers don’t yet have access to the wearable APIs. While MDM solutions can control the smartphone or tablet in which the wearable connects they are yet to be able to gain access to the device itself. This becomes even more important when you consider the range of applications to which these devices can connect.

2) Privacy

Many wearable devices come with camera or recording capability making it easy for an employee to record a meeting or a situation without consent.

HR policies will need to be updated to ensure that wearables are addressed in the same way as smartphones and tablets.

3) Supply-side complexity

Currently the OS ecosystem within the wearables market is highly fragmented. There’s Tizen (Samsung), Pebble, AndroidWear and (soon) Apple all in the mix and remember just as with smartphones and tablets applications bought for one eco system don’t generally transport to another. Organisations must make a call on which wearable OS to place their bets.

Regardless of these challenges I am optimistic that 2015 is the year that both manufacturers and customers find the use case for wearables in business and I for one will be hugely excited to see wearables and hands free computing coming to the workplace.

What do you think? Has your organisation rolled out Wearables? Do you see your day job being impacted by this technology? Let me know on Twitter at @alyfairburn