In 2014, wearables went from being a novel use of technology to the next big thing. As the calendar flips to 2015, vendors have their sights set on the enterprise.
Device makers are gearing up in preparation for the expected boom in wearables. By 2019, Juniper Research predicts that the wearables hardware market will hit $53.2 billion in retail sales.
Like smartphones and tablets did before them, wearables will wind up in the workplace. Earlier this year, ABI Research forecast that the enterprise wearable device market will reach $18 billion by 2019.
Sensing an opportunity, software makers are gearing up for the wearables revolution. Salesforce, the cloud business software innovator, launched Salesforce Wear this year, "the first initiative for wearable computing in the enterprise," according to the company's senior vice president of Emerging Technology, Daniel Debow. Last month, SAP announced a partnership with mobile behemoth Samsung to develop wearable apps.
SAP's Amisha Gandhi, director of global product marketing for the business software giant, expects wearables to have a big impact on how work gets done and where organizations allocate at least some of their IT budgets in the coming year.
Wearables Punch the Clock
Fitbit, Microsoft Band and Jawbone UP are helping athletic types get to know their quantified selves and keep an eye on their waistlines. Soon, that growing familiarity with smart wearable devices will translate into a more productive workday, expects SAP.
"We saw traction in 2014 for fitness bands and wearables for consumers- in 2015, wearables will move beyond the novelty of consumer use and extend to the enterprise," Gandhi told Datamation. "Businesses will invest in hardware such as glasses and smart watches, thereby extending the value of existing mobile investments and addressing new use cases to quickly deliver ROI."
Increased adoption will help businesses institute frictionless, more intuitive workflows and improve workplace safety. "Wearables will enable workers to operate hands–free, increasing safety and productivity, providing contextual information in real–time and even improving customer service," Gandhi said. "Business use of wearables will outpace consumer use and value - the possibilities are limitless."
Wearables Leave the Nest
Except for a handful of devices with built-in cellular capabilities, most wearables are wrapped in the embrace of a smartphone courtesy of their Bluetooth connections. Soon, they'll be striking out on their own, according to Movidius, a wearable imaging specialist.
"While many technologies today remained tethered to a smartphone, the next generation of wearables will allow users the freedom to directly interface with their connected devices. These wearables may ultimately share data with mobile phones, but will also work independently to provide a more seamless experience," said Movidius' CEO Remi El-Ouazzane. "This will be especially true for vision-based wearables, where displays are easily accessible to the user at a moment's notice."
Eyeing the Enterprise
Smart glasses and personal imaging devices like Google Glass have yet to win over consumers. The prognosis for businesses looks brighter, however.
"Just like palm held computers have become a staple in the enterprise, vision-based wearables will see similar success in industries like healthcare and repair service industries (like automotive or electronics)," said El-Ouazzane. "While consumer devices may require an ecosystem of applications and a significant number of features to take hold in the market, enterprise companies may start budgeting for this technology once they realize the opportunity to bring greater efficiency to their businesses."
A Low-Maintenance Relationship with Wearables
As the market matures, wearables will be expected to just work, according to Omri Yoffe, CEO of LifeBEAM, a maker of fitness trackers and smart cycling helmets. The pressure is on to deliver products that seamlessly blend into a user's day-to-day routine.
Yoffe sees the industry placing "[more] weight and focus on the UX [user experience] and the ability to provide the end user an insightful, meaningful, simplified and unified feedbacks/UX about his daily activity life and personal well-being and less focus on the raw bio-sensing parameters the and other more techy parts." And opportunity awaits vendors that master the art of unobtrusive tech.
Monetizing the Quantified Self
The wearables craze is the "start of big data play and the ability of major wearable brands to monetize the user's daily activity data into more actionable recommendation and offers, both from user experience and e-commerce aspects," said Yoffe.
Yoffe expects the market to split into two major categories, one of which lacks the tell-tale signs of wearable tech.
Some vendors will opt for sensors "to be invisibly implemented into all sorts of wearable gear apparel with a focus on low power consumption and wireless connectivity to display devices and/or the cloud," said Yoffe. Of course, there will plenty of conspicuous examples, including smart watches, earbuds and perhaps tech-laden eyewear, which will act "as the user's data aggregation, display and communication 'hub'" and deliver data in real-time.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.