Beyond the flash of wearables like the leather-strapped LG Watch Urbane or the gold metal framed Huawei TalkBand B2, the idea of a more practical use for wearables in the workplace has taken a back seat to conversations about data security at this year’s Mobile World Congress. Aside from the inherent security concerns of employees bringing and using their wearables in the workplace, can a wearable device actually help an employee work?
From what was shown at this year’s MWC, it’s likely that not every industry will benefit from wearables in the workplace in the same way. Things like productivity have the potential for improvement with smart watches that make checking messages or answering an email just a glance away, but there’ll be certain industries that could see an even bigger impact.
Fortune has already talked about the usefulness of wearables for training a new generation of blue-collar workers with the need for experienced on-site training for industries like maintenance. A potential solution? Smart glasses that use bluetooth and video streaming to help train new workers in the field, without experts having to physically be there to train them.
Another industry with huge potential is inventory management, something which our GetApp colleague Matt got to experience first hand at MWC. Trying out Sony’s SmartEyeGlass augmented reality glasses, and with a simulated warehouse projected on a TV screen in front of him, Matt was able to navigate through the ‘warehouse’ to quickly locate a product he was asked to collect. In this case, directions that help you maneuver through a packed warehouse to find a product while wearing smart glasses speeds up the process. Similarly, Virgin Atlantic airlines has already talked about equipping its engineers with the Sony glasses.
Field services management– where keeping track of employees, vehicles, or products in the field is imperative– could see similar benefits by letting you track and manage things from data gathered via wearable devices.
For typically white collar industries, an entirely different discussion about wearables at work is taking place, where the idea of revolutionizing the workplace takes a back seat to security. In situations where employees are bringing their own wearable devices, it’s inevitable that there’ll be security concerns regarding the vulnerability of data being transferred between company owned property and personal devices like a smart watch.
A study done by Trend Micro for MWC 2015 claims that 79% of European employers are seeing more employees bring their wearable devices to work, while 90% of employers recognize the need to change their security policies (notably, the BYOD policies that many companies are adopting) to incorporate wearables. Here, increasing productivity is still a key benefit, but it’s apparent that desk jobs won’t be revolutionized by wearables as much as on-site work.
What’s interesting is that with the definitive role of wearables like the unsightly Sony glasses (they’re straight from the ‘future’ of the 80s), its practical use eliminates the idea of ‘flash’ in favor of ‘functionality’ for a new take on wearables that could revolutionize the workplace.