We’ve come a long way in the advancement of wearable devices since Google’s Glass prototype became commercially available in 2014, paving the way for other wearable technologies and a multitude of use cases that have hit the market since then.

Wearable devices, like other technologies, should be utilized only if they’re effective in adding value to operations with minimal disruption and if they can integrate seamlessly into the workflow with friendly user interfaces and custom functionality. Moreover, they need to be able to demonstrate positive ROI.

When evaluating the potential for wearable solutions, manufacturers should consider their ability to create business benefits by improving worker effectiveness, enabling new types of engagement with customers, and improving worker safety. To assess wearables, manufacturers should apply the following criteria:

  • Determine fit and relevance by identifying specific users and their roles

  • Analyze the type of device and determine whether it’s appropriate for the task required

  • Ensure you can comply with labor, privacy and data protection laws of your region by confirming user’s identity and location

  • Confirm ability to establish permission controls and data access levels after defining user needs and compliance considerations

Incentives to using wearables, which are highlighted in Gartner’s 2018 Exploring Applications of Wearables in the Enterprise Survey, include improved performance, increased efficiency and quality, and workers’ well-being. When you integrate artificial intelligence (AI) into the mix, you get an enhanced, personalized experience derived from relevant, real-time data.

Insights derived from the survey indicate that the main reason wearable technology fails is because organizations that launch wearable technology initiatives without a specific goal in mind often find that the projects fail to show business value and consequently abandon them. Featured in the same survey are the most common cross-industry use cases for wearable technologies, which should be assessed not just on their benefits but against their potential pitfalls as well.

Hands-free workflow

  • Why invest: workers can perform job functions while their hands are occupied using head-mounted displays (HMDs) that show step-by-step instructions and body scanners that alert workers to perform a task.
  • Challenge: ergonomics is fundamental to the design of HMDs, as these should be comfortable enough so that users can wear them for hours at a time without having to be constantly reminded that there’s something additional strapped onto their body, and likewise, materials should be carefully selected to avoid problems like irritation or allergies.

Remote expert guidance

  • Why invest: workers can share hands-free video of their work with an expert in a remote location for guidance on next steps.

  • Challenge: organizations are concerned about exposure to cybersecurity threats and governance issues related to wearable data transmission and storage.

Health and safety monitoring

  • Why invest: wearable sensors improve worker safety by monitoring their health in strenuous situations and issuing alerts with their location information to emergency care providers.

  • Challenge: workers are concerned about surveillance and workplace discrimination based on health data captured from wearables.

Immersive technology for worker training

  • Why invest: to learn procedures or practice scenarios in a simulated or augmented environment, workers use HMDs to control the simulation via handheld user interfaces, gesture devices, eye tracking and/or voice.

  • Challenge: convincing people to wear your product isn’t easy, especially with other products competing for that space, so the wearable device needs to convey a compelling enough story to which people can relate and express themselves in order to get their buy-in.

Expect more advances in this area to arrive as computer vision and wearable sensors turn human movements into actionable data. Although wearable technology can be deployed across an entire enterprise, it’s the frontline and field workers who experience the most dramatic benefits from the technology.

To be successful in a crowded market, providers of wearable solutions must develop a highly personalized customer experience that users can get behind, plus be able to demonstrate longevity with ease of updates. In addition to having intuitive interfaces, wearables should be assessed on common use cases around workflow improvement and key productivity metrics, which impact most manufacturers. Lastly, any organization looking to adopt wearables into its operations must be prepared to address worker concerns around privacy and security.

Learn more about Tulip's approach to wearables

Learn how manufacturers are augmenting their workforce by combining Tulip's platform with wearable IoT devices.

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