Wearable Tech at the Workplace

8/26/2013

Wearable sensors are the latest tech-related fashion craze, but not just for consumers. Businesses could soon make use of sensors affixed to hats, watches, glasses, and more. Equipped to provide workers with much-need data about the surrounding environment, these devices may soon invade the job and redefine the workplace—much like tablets and smartphones did just a few years back.

Naturally, businesses have been discussing how something like Google Glass could be used at work. Even the BYOD (bring your own device) phenomenon has the potential to extend to wearable technology, with workers bringing their personal smart watches and glasses for use at work. However, the potential for wearable sensors could be much greater, with specific applications created for targeted industries.

Case in point: a construction hard hat with embedded sensors. The Virginia Tech College of Engineering, www.eng.vt.edu, has developed a construction helmet with a sensor that can detect the onset of carbon monoxide poisoning, which is a concern in residential and industrial settings as the exhaust from gasoline-powered hand tools can quickly build up in enclosed spaces.


Researchers at the university integrated a pulse oximetry into a typical construction helmet, which continuously monitors workers’ blood gas saturation levels. This helmet is just the beginning for wearable technologies in construction. The report suggests while the helmet targets carbon monoxide poisoning, other opportunities exist for wearable computing. This includes the ability to reduce injuries due to falls, electrocution, and particulate inhalation. The report even suggests this technology could one day prevent workers from being struck by vehicles.

And this is just one instance. Gartner, www.gartner.com, points to another example. Consider if all employees had access to wearable technology that could answer any product or service question or pull up any enterprise data. This would improve productivity and customer service.

In its recent Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, Gartner featured the relationship between humans and machines. When it comes to emerging technologies being used at work, there are three main trends: augmenting humans with technology (i.e., an employee with a wearable computing device), machines replacing humans, and machines and humans working alongside each other. Gartner suggests enterprises of the future will use a combination of these three trends to improve productivity and the customer experience.

The possibilities for wearables at the workplace are beginning to surface. While business-specific applications such as the hard hat will likely emerge, consumer-based wearable technology in the workplace is also a burgeoning trend to keep an eye on.

Want to tweet about this article? Use hashtags #wearable #BYOD





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