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April 19, 2012


Why the Enterprise Should Care About Wearable Technology

By Dave Courbanou

Between the buzz around the “Google Glass” project and the overnight success of the Bluetooth-powered watch, “Pebble,” the world is alight with the idea of wearable technology. Why would one want to wear technology when we have smartphones? Because the way we interact with the world changes based on where the technology lives.

For example, a watch intrinsically allows a quick glance at important information. It does not require you to take out your phone to check the date, time or how many messages you have ignored. It doesn’t require you to do anything at all. Just glance down and get the most important information you need instantaneously. The Google Glass prototype glasses allow the deep level of connectivity and information we love from smartphones to be converted into an interactive heads-up display. This makes it easier to interact and consume the real world while continually being attached to our virtual world.

You’re wondering how this affects the enterprise. In a nutshell it’s akin to the consumerization of IT, but in reality, it has far deeper implications than an iPad. Wearable technology will literally improve the entire efficiency of a workforce. The whole thing can be explained with a story about our friend “Bob Executive.”

Bob starts his day by putting on his smart watch. His smart watch is linked to his tablet or smartphone and will automatically update him on meetings, emails, missed calls, text messages and what his wife wants him to bring home for dinner. When Bob arrives to work, he taps his smart watch on the main entrance door, which allows the NFC chip to unlock the door and sign him into the building. Since Bob has arrived 10 minutes late to work, all of his appointments and meetings are automatically adjusted for Bob’s routine, thanks to an advanced unified communications server. His administrative assistant also receives an alert on her own watch, letting her know Bob has entered the building.

Since Bob has entered the building, it also woke up the thin client on his desk which has automatically booted up and logged him into his desktop environment. It will be waiting for him in his office, ready to go. All Bob has to do is tap his watch to the desk, and his endpoint will be unlocked.

When Bob settles in, he calls his first meeting of the day. Staff files into the meeting room, and in lieu of a projector screen, every employee dons their smart glasses and takes a seat around the table. The presentation is virtual and 3D. A bar graph appears to be floating off the center of the meeting table. The perspective of the 3D content is linked to the location of the user around the table. Although all content exists inside the glasses, the nature of augmented reality allows employees to literally interact with the content at hand. Now, instead of a room filled with blank eyeballs glued to a monochrome PowerPoint slide, workers are connected to the information.

Bob’s meeting ends a little early, and as employees file out, their smart watches automatically talk to the NFC receiver at the door, alerting their UC presence status to shift from ‘busy’ to ‘available,’ since everything ended ahead of schedule. This automatically readjusts Bob’s appointments for the day, too.

While Bob was in the meeting, someone stopped by his office. His secretary didn’t have to let him know, all the employee had to do is tap his watch to Bob’s door, and Bob would know which person wanted to see him. Tweaks like these eliminate the need for useless e-mails and improve employee efficiency, since they can be sure Bob will know they needed to speak with him. Low-level communication like this can be integrated everywhere in the enterprise, from a vending machine to a data center mainframe. No admin access linked to your smart watch? That NFC-enabled keyboard won’t activate. Don’t belong in the data center? Security has just been alerted.

But wait, there’s a whole lot more. Each smart watch generates anonymous information which is then aggregated and sent to the company’s big data analysis server. There, the enterprise can figure out the frequency of communications, typical duration of meetings, average employee time spent away from workstation and more. An enterprise can essentially pinpoint where they can build a more efficient business and what key employee trends are directly related to enhanced productivity.

For instance, it could be noted that there’s a correlation between improved productivity and lunch breaks that start at 12:30 p.m. instead of 11:30 a.m. Big data also allows an enterprise to evaluate more granular details, like the relationship between total minutes late to work and total work accomplished. That could mean more lenient treatment for late employees if it shows no detriment to workflow. If you’d like to take it one step deeper, anonymous biometrics on smart glasses could provide realistic and real-time feedback on employee reception to specific presentations.

Without it all getting too “big brother,” wearable technology has the ability to eliminate the abstractions currently necessary in today’s enterprise environment. Why go back to your desk just to read an e-mail that alerts you to be somewhere else? Why waste time updating a unified communications app when your presence is automatically adjusted based on your location?

Wearable technology joins together all the social enterprise aspects with all the big data analytics everyone loves into an super-connected ultra-efficient unified cloud. It exists everywhere and it exists nowhere, which is precisely why it works so well. This future will literally allow us to do far more with far less device abstraction. For that reason alone, the enterprise should care deeply about the coming wave of wearable technology.

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