Wearable technology is a type of technological device that can be worn comfortably on the body, either as an accessory or as part of the material used in clothing. These devices often include a tracking feature which relays information related to health and fitness. Other “wearables” have motion sensors that take photos or collect data, synchronizing with other mobile devices.
Wearable technology devices have been included in various accessories, including, glasses, watches, contact lenses, headbands, beanies, caps, dresses, jackets, vests, shirts, e-textiles, gloves, shoes, rings, earrings, necklaces, and bracelets.
These devices are capable of performing many of the same computing tasks as laptops and Smartphones. Sometimes wearables may even offer capabilities that traditional technological devices cannot.
A brief history of wearable technology
While many of us find ourselves amazed by the latest advancement in wearable technology, the concept of wearable “devices” has actually been with us for centuries.
Here is a brief timeline of the history of “wearable technology”.
- 1505 – Peter Henlein, a clockmaker in Germany, created the “Pomander,” the oldest known “smartwatch”.
- 1644 – The Chinese developed the first functioning abacus ring.
- 1908 – Dr. Julius Neubronner created the “pigeon-cam,” strapped to pigeons (arguably the oldest GoPro). It had a pneumatic system that controlled the time delay before a photograph was taken.
- 1960 – Morton Heilig, a cinematographer, invented and patented the “Stereophonic Television Head-Mounted Display.” He is known as the Father of Virtual Reality.
- 1964 – Edward Thorp invented the first wearable computer that fit in a shoe.
- 1975 – The first “wristwatch calculator” was presented by Pulsar.
- 1979 – The Walkman, the first portable cassette tape player, was created by Sony.
- 1998 – Steve Mann designed a fully functioning prototype of a GNU/Linux Wristwatch Videophone.
- 1999 – The mBracelet was developed by Studio 5050. It had the ability to computer financial transactions with ATMs and it could be worn as a fashion accessory.
- 2000 – Levi launched its ICD+ jacket that “had a removable wired harness connecting a range of portable electronic devices carried by young professional people.”
- 2002 – Nokia introduced the Bluetooth headset.
- 2006 – Nike teamed up with Apple to create Nike+iPod Sport Kit – “a smart shoe, a clip-on receiver, and software built into the iPod Nano.”
- 2008 – The Fitbit Classic Wristband, an activity, and sleep tracker, was introduced.
- 2012 – Google Glass, an optical head-mounted screen display, in the likeness of glasses, was launched.
- 2014 – Tommy Hilfiger introduced solar-powered jackets.
As this particular brand of technology evolved, the early bulky prototypes became smaller, more lightweight, and exclusively mobile.
It’s evident how wearable technology was developed for the purpose of providing users the convenience of portable, and ultimately hands-free, access to computers and other electronic devices.
What are the benefits of wearable technology in business?
1. Wearables help increase employee productivity.
Experts from Goldsmiths, University of London, found that wearable technology can help boost employee productivity by 8.5 percent, as it allows users to solve issues at a faster rate.
For example, in the healthcare industry, some wearables allow doctors to look inside patients’ veins. In the construction industry, some workers use wearables which allow them to view inside walls and piping. Employees in the retail industry get the job done faster because they can look up the information that they need via wireless headsets, tech lanyards, or wearable wrist displays. There is no need for them to leave the customer as they obtain the required information.
2. Wearable technology helps increase employee satisfaction.
According to a study conducted by Human Cloud At Work (HCAW) in collaboration with Rackspace, wearable increases job satisfaction by 3.5 percent.
Since wearables improve employee productivity, job satisfaction is usually simultaneously on the upswing.
3. Wearable technology enables companies to track employee health and fitness as part of their wellness programs.
According to Kelly Fenol, CEO of Spire Wellness, a company that designs and runs corporate wellness programs, 40 to 50 percent of employers with a wellness program use trackers. Data gathered by these devices is often linked to incentive programs to help reduce healthcare costs.
4. Wearables can help keep employees safe.
Wearable technology can help address safety issues in the workplace. For example, in Australia, truck drivers at coal mines have been using SmartCap. The device looks like an ordinary baseball cap, but the manufacturer describes it as “a fatigue monitoring tool for vehicle drivers or operators of heavy vehicles that provides real-time measurements of fatigue, based on direct physiological measurement, rather than estimation via measures of related symptoms.”
However, with every advantage, comes a potential obstacle; and there are certainly some to consider when deciding to implement and integrate wearable technology into your own work environment.
What are the disadvantages of wearable technology?
1. Wearables are expensive.
A 2016 COLLOQUY survey of 1,060 Americans showed that 63 percent consider wearable technology to be too expensive. Since most wearables are designed to be compact, functional, and fashionable at the same time, these devices tend to come with a steep price. The high price for both individual and corporate consumers is one drawback for the wearable trend.
2. Some wearables are not stand-alone devices.
Wearable technology is usually linked to separately standing smart devices due to the smaller processer size in the wearable device. Think of the fitness trackers which must be coordinated with a corresponding app on a Smartphone, tablet. Again, this may mean further expense for a business owner if they are to be provided to employees.
3. Wearables can have health risks.
Experts have expressed concern that wearables may pose serious health risks to users of these devices. Wearables increase exposure to radio waves to those who are already carrying Smartphones, laptops, and tablets.
4. Wearable technology may pose security risks.
Since wearables are always connected to the internet, this makes them more vulnerable to attacks. These gadgets are not always intact with rigorous encryption that protects personal data. If you are planning to provide your employees with wearables, make sure that they come with cloud-based security solutions to protect your data from hacking and cybercriminals.
5. There are some privacy concerns regarding wearables.
App providers often seek to share information gathered via their corresponding wearable devices, and 82 percent of employees are concerned that the use wearables may ultimately violate their privacy. Moreover, an employee who is using a wearable health tracking device as part of their company’s wellness program may fear being passed over for certain professional opportunities within the company, especially if the individual showed below-average fitness or health data. Employers must be sure to respect the privacy of their employees and not fall into any legal ambiguities stemming from your workforce’s collective data statistics.
6. There are limitations to the use of wearables because of their size.
Due to their compact size, certain wearables are not appropriate for common tasks such as email correspondence or various types of research, limiting their usefulness and cost effectiveness.
7. Wearable technology can distract employees from work-related tasks.
Again, due to the size of certain devices, employees may be tempted to discreetly, and more frequently, text, chat, or check on social media while working.
Similar to other forms of technology, wearables make it easier for people, in general, to perform specific tasks. However, necessary precautions should be taken to ensure that these devices are not hacked and employees’ privacy and sensitive information are not compromised.
Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200