Smartwatches are no longer consumer accessories – they are enterprise devices

Wearables have officially arrived and they have made inroads into enterprises. While consumer-facing devices such as Fitbits, Apple and Samsung smartwatches are already a smash hit with consumers, 2016 proved to be the year of an enterprise wide adoption of wearable technology. According to reports, wearable technology has made a leap from pilot projects to delivering more potential for enterprises and it is not just limited to the industrial sector.

Sizing up the enterprise adoption of wearable technology  

According to a market research report, by Markets and Markets, wearables definitely have a play in enterprises with the market for wearable technology to reach USD 31.27 billion by 2020, at a CAGR of 17.8%. The report also hints that the growth of wearable technology in the consumer electronics sector is largely attributed to an exceptionally high adoption of wearable scanners in logistics and warehouses for improving operational efficiency. Another market intelligence firm, Tractica has a similar forecast —  market for enterprise wearable devices, including industrial and healthcare wearables, will grow to $31 billion by 2021, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 121%.

The future of enterprise wearables was kick-started by Google Glass

When it was first launched in 2013, there was a lot of skepticism about Google’s head mounted device and industry pundits were quick to write its obituary, given the public outcry over privacy issues. But the wearable computer underwent a makeover and rolled out a year later as an enterprise device, specifically aimed at healthcare, manufacturing and energy industries.

One of its most notable uses is in healthcare where Google Glass is put to work by surgeons who hail the benefits of the hands free screen that could be controlled by voice.

While on the consumer front, Google Glass turned out to be a monumental failure, businesses unlocked real value by becoming Glass Certified Partners such as APX Labs, provider of enterprise grade software platform for smart glasses and wearables and Wearable Intelligence that applies Google Glass to engineering, Oil and Gas and manufacturing. At present, there are nine companies listed on the Glass Certified Partners page.

Wearable Technology coming into enterprise play

While the first mover advantage in wearable enterprises is snapped up by Google Glass, global software giant Accenture and Cognizant Technologies are not far behind in leveraging wearable technology in enterprise settings. If leading device maker Samsung’s numbers are anything to go by, 11% is the current adoption rate of wearables in enterprises and 25% of companies have Internet of Things (IoT) solutions in place. Even though there are no established use cases, of late there is a lot of chatter about Apple Watch maneuvering into enterprise, thanks to its superior capabilities and functionalities. So far its enterprise adoption has been only fueled by Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) to work movement. Its application is only limited at workplaces for streamlining workflows.

Let’s look how Accenture is deploying wearable technology for its clients across the verticals:  

Philips collaborated with Accenture to integrate Google Glass in healthcare

a) Philips: When Philips wanted to integrate Google Glass with its software, Accenture built a prototype model for the client, illustrating the application of Google Glass in the operating room, demonstrating how surgeons could check the display and get the patient’s vital signs in real time.

b) Oil & Gas client: Accenture evaluated more than 20 wearable devices and built three business cases for one of their long-term clients in the oil and gas sector. The global consulting company tested the technical capabilities of Google Glass, APX Labs Skylight and Epson Moverio for maturity and scale and helps the client in bettering the use of wearable displays for long term success.   

Wearable technology is already a game changer in retail, healthcare and manufacturing industries and Cognizant is all set to change that by eyeing the automotive sector. According to a whitepaper authored by Cognizant, wearables offer huge benefits in the automotive industry which is already testing the waters with specific business cases.

Here’s are some use cases from the automotive sector:

a) Mercedes: The German carmaker was one of the first adopters of wearable tech and announced an integration with Google Glassware in 2013. It enabled the driver wearing Google Glass to exchange information on navigation, for example directions could be laid out via the smart glass, eliminating the use of GPS screen.

b) BMW: Another global automotive leader built a smartwatch prototype for its cars that enabled users to check door lock status, battery status and receive notifications specific to the vehicle, for example whether it needed servicing or maintenance.

Nissan’s Nismo smartwatch gives real time information to the driver

c) Nissan: According to Cognizant’s study, leading automakers are collaborating with wearable manufacturers and developing apps that provide access and insights through smartwatch technology. Case in point is Nissan’s smartwatch Nismo that delivers real-time information to drivers such as average speed and even the wearer’s heart rate. Data gleaned from the car and wearer is sent to smartphone app through Bluetooth.

Wearables are all set to be the next big thing in Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem and the enterprise adoption will enrich the customer experience, on the consumer front things are not so bright.

From adoption to abandonment — consumer wearable market on the decline

Smartwatches haven’t fared too well with high abandonment rate

The Apple watch launched with much fanfare in September 2014, but in the last couple of years the euphoria has waned, with watch failing to meet many analyst’s expectations. Leading market research firm Emarketer has slashed their adoption rate. Though the consumer wearables showed early adoption promise, IT analyst firm Gartner hinted in their recent survey about a 29% abandonment rate of smart watches and 30% for fitness trackers.  Gartner’s research revealed a high pricing sensitivity as compared to its perceived usage was a major put off for most prospective buyers. Another reason cited was a lack of appealing design of fitness trackers and smart watches. While smart watches did gain an early adoption, its usage was limited to technologists and tech mavens, largely among the higher age group with United States (US) leading the race with 12%. Also, another reason why wearables haven’t caught on is because of the overlapping functionalities between smart watches and fitness trackers.

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Richa Bhatia
Richa Bhatia

Richa Bhatia is a seasoned journalist with six-years experience in reportage and news coverage and has had stints at Times of India and The Indian Express. She is an avid reader, mum to a feisty two-year-old and loves writing about the next-gen technology that is shaping our world.