How wearable tech can help align IT with business objectives

Wearable tech is not solely a consumer play – it has applications for the enterprise too. Here's why we'll be seeing more of it in the boardroom this year.

The Consumer Electronics Show is comparable to its host city: big, shiny, over-the-top, and sometimes eyebrow-raising.

But what happens at CES in Vegas definitely doesn’t stay in Vegas: It’s a chance to showcase new and upcoming technologies, and sets the tone for what we can expect to see in the coming year.

And it’s not just for consumers. With the consumerization of IT and BYOD, businesses want to know which trends will affect them and how they can build a business case around new technologies. And this year, CES was all about wearable tech.

No longer a novelty, wearable tech is slowly moving into the mainstream, and some analysts are predicting this is the year wearables will take off (thanks in part to the highly anticipated Apple Watch set for release later this year). Indeed, IDC projects the number of wearable products that ship will increase by six-fold to 111.9 million by 2018.

This ties into another trend we’re seeing: Devices are becoming increasingly connected, and apps are increasingly using big data to create more dynamic apps.

CA predicts that this year IT will become more aligned with business objectives — that connected devices, big data and analytics will drive business revenues as IT increasingly contributes to the bottom line.

And wearable tech is another tool in the toolbox for collecting that data. At CES, for example, we saw a slew of announcements around wearables and fitness trackers that hold potential not just for tech geeks and fitness buffs, but also a wide range of business applications.

Garmin released its newest fitness band, the vívoactive, which pairs with the user’s smartphone through a proprietary app and “nudges” the user to stay active. Sony rolled out its SmartBand fitness-based devices, while Lenovo introduced its VIBE Band VB10 fitness tracker that pushes notifications from the user’s smartphone, such as text messages and even tweets. And FitLinxx came out with a waterproof fitness tracker called AmStrip, which sticks to the skin like a Band-Aid.

Thanks to the consumerization of IT, we’re already seeing how wearable tech could impact the workplace and even create new business opportunities.

Wearable tech allows us to use technology in work environments where logistics limit the use of traditional mobile devices. Consider workers who require hands-free access to data, from emergency personnel to salespeople, engineers and service technicians (to name a few). These connected devices can help workers access data — and also collect it.

Wearables are always on, always connected. Most have an extensive battery life. That means there’s a constant flow of real-time data. And that constant flow of real-time data gives rise to new business opportunities.

Some of the new fitness bands, for example, offer much more than “calories burned” or “steps taken.” The InBody Band measures bioelectrical impedance, which measures body composition rather than weight (fat versus muscle), and even tracks sleep using a 3-D accelerometer sensor. And HealBe GoBe measures fluids inside the body to create a “nutritional profile” for the user.

Consider how these connected devices could be used in the healthcare industry to, say, monitor a patient’s vitals and send anomalies to their doctor.

Also consider how wearable tech is becoming an integral part of the Internet of Things, where sensor-based “things” communicate with each other and collect mobile data, as well as geographic, environmental and biometric data.

This new ecosystem of connected devices will be pulled together with dynamic apps. So not only will it be easier to access data, but it will also be easier to collect data, which in turn could be used to provide insights, predict trends and, ultimately, lead to better decision-making.

As connected devices and apps combine with big data and analytics, IT will become less about keeping the lights on and more about contributing directly to the bottom line — and accelerating innovation.

Image credit: Sdu7cb


Vawn Himmelsbach is a freelance writer and editor based in Toronto. She has covered technology…

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