Wearables - the new accessory for work?

With Mobile World Congress now a few weeks behind us, I’ve had a chance to digest all the information from the event (which, by the way, had a record-breaking attendance of 85,000 visitors). The event delved into trends old and new, with a particular focus on the development of the themes predicted last year.

The most notable theme was the Internet of Things, with exhibitors showcasing wearable technology, connected cars and examples of smart cities.

And it was wearable technology that caught my attention.

With products like Google Glass, which puts a camera and recording device quite literally right in front of your eyes, smartwatches like the Samsung’s Galaxy Gear and the much anticipated Apple iWatch, the big question is what impact technology like this will have on businesses?

While the technology might seem to be targeted at the consumer – with features including messaging, alerts and access to personal fitness and health apps – their ability to offer hands-free access to applications makes them an exciting prospect for businesses.

Wearables free users from having to carry a phone or tablet, giving them great potential in roles where employees need both hands free to do their jobs well. For example in areas like like the emergency services, manufacturing and healthcare, as well as for people working in environmentally-challenging situations – such as rail engineers. What’s more the technology can also provide a valuable interface for real-time data and applications.

Smartglasses have the potential to bring a different dimension to any role by enabling an augmented reality overlay for products, places and more. It could provide access to repair manuals and larger schematics, helping engineers, technicians and architects to make more informed, quicker decisions. Opportunities to improve safety go without saying as the technology can alert users of hazards by overlaying them onto their surroundings – also beneficial for the police, showing what past crimes or known criminals an area has.

Furthermore, to make the technology take off in businesses it will require apps – and lots of them. Google is pushing this with the imminent release of Android for wearables, its software development kit.

But it’s worth remembering, if people do start wearing smartglasses and smartwatches to work, it could create a security headache for IT. Imagine if someone’s Google glasses record everything they saw and heard in the office, or at a business meeting, and are then left in a taxi or on a train. There are a number of questions still to be answered, but these devices will need close management to avoid security breaches in the business world.

Only time will tell, but this time next year it might be less BYOD and more BYOW…

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