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Wearables – why function will triumph over fashion

Mar 11 • Features, Future of FIeld Service • 4500 Views • No Comments on Wearables – why function will triumph over fashion

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There were some big claims at the start of 2014 around the impact that wearables would have both in business and in the mainstream and with this weeks announcement of the now imminent AppleWatch launch similar noises are being made as fashion and technology come ever closer.

But Apple has a mountain to climb if they are to be the brand that finally cracks the consumer smartwatch market.

Rewind back a year and we were being told this was the year of the wearable. Just one year  later and there is a distinctly different attitude doing the rounds, one that not only lacks the optimism of last year but also has a defiant hint of those pessimistic ‘I told you it wouldn’t work’ types.

Rewind back a year and we were being told this was the year of the wearable. Just one year later and there is a distinctly different attitude doing the rounds

Add to this the lingering hint of failure that followed Google’s recent announcement that they were ending their Glass Explorer program, effectively stopping the sale of Glass to the general public until the next iteration of the product (which will be ‘when they’re ready’ apparently) and the general air of smugness of the naysayers has become that much more tangible.

Yet Glass isn’t dead, far from it and we’ll come back to that in a moment.

But first, let’s look at the wider question around wearables and why 2014 didn’t live up to the hyperbole as being the ‘Year of the Wearable”.

With high profile wearable launches from Samsung, Apple and of course Google being widely anticipated for 2014 it was with much anticipation that Wearables which had been touted as the next big thing from as early as 2008 would finally breakthrough and gain mass appeal in the consumer market.

Yet the fact is that we as consumers just weren’t ready.

Whilst 75% of consumers are aware of wearable technology, just 9% actually had any desire to purchase

In fact research from digital research firm L2 recently confirmed what we pretty much new in that whilst 75% of consumers are aware of wearable technology, just 9% actually had any desire to purchase and a measly 2% confirmed they actually owned a wearable device.

However, whilst there is a clear lack of desire to be dubbed a ‘Glasshole’ by adorning a wearable device, this doesn’t equate to why there has also been little adoption in the world of enterprise. Lets be honest hi-vis jackets aren’t exactly high-fashion (well not since the early nineties for those ex-ravers out there) but I highly doubt that has halted their sales in the various industries they are required.

Personally, I think there are two key reasons why we have not seen wearables become popular in a working environment as yet.

Firstly in all the excitement and hyperbole surrounding wearable computing we’ve perhaps overstated the impact and the sheer power of a wearable device. One common misconception I hear around smart watches in particular is what is the point when I can do everything that the watch offers on my smartphone?

This is a fundamental flaw in the thinking around smartwatches and wearables in general. Whilst they offer much of the same functionality they are not devices to replace your phone or tablet, they are companion devices to enhance the productivity of the your phone. And in field service in particular such enhancements can be particularly powerful.

In an environment where working hands free is of a huge benefit, then the ability to have a phone conversation without having to have one hand restrained holding your phone can be very advantageous.

‘Well that could be done using a bluetooth headset’ some might say. Yes it could. However, dialling a number isn’t, whereas it is via a smart watch (often via voice activation). Another good example of smartwatches being put to good use in field service would be to take photos of any issues or fixes etc.

So again we here the cries of ‘well I can do that on my phone – is it so hard to take out my phone out from my pocket to take a photo’.

When we come down to it isn’t that the point of technology to make things quicker and easier?

Of course the answer is no it’s not hard, it’s just quicker to do it on a smart watch – which is just a handier extension of your phone anyway. And when we come down to it isn’t that the point of technology to make things quicker and easier? If not then why the hell did we move away from pen and paper in the first place?

However, if we are talking about using wearables as a true companion device then perhaps a better example would be using the two devices in tandem.

For example lets say an engineer believes that the problem lies at the back of a piece of equipment that is inaccessible. The only solution would be to move the equipment to check.

However, an engineer with a smartwatch may be able to position the watch around the device whilst viewing the footage on their smartphones screen. A quick visual check using this combination of technology could confirm whether or not this is where the issue lies, saving the hassle of unnecessarily moving the equipment, speeding up the engineers workflow.

There are already a number of apps developed that allow this functionality.

However, none are designed with this specific application in mind and herein lies what I believe to be the second reason we’ve yet to see smartwatches make an impact in industry. Simply a lack of developers designing apps specifically for specific business niches.

There have been some attempts, most notably ClickSoftware’s Shift Expert release on Saleforce Wear, but for wider adoption we need more apps.

And this is where we return to Glass being still very much alive. Whilst in some corners Google’s removal of Glass from public sales is seen as an acknowledgement of failure, the truth I believe is very much different.

Whilst there have been reports that developers for consumer apps are losing interest in creating apps the list of Glass Certified Partners has increased with apps being developed for a wide variety of industries.

One of those Glass Certified Partners is Pristine.io who despite only coming up to their second year have already grown from start up to a $5.5M venture financing backed company with 20 staff in their very short lifetime.

Google have publicly said they are actively investing in the enterprise version of Glass

For them the opportunity to make Glass and other similar smartglasses work in a field service environment is not only a very desirable goal but a very achievable one also.

Commenting on the future potential of Glass Kyle Samani, Founder of Pristine.io said.

“Google have publicly said they are actively investing in the enterprise version of Glass and we are one of the very few certified Glass Enterprise Partners, we work with Google very closely both with engineering and business process around Glass, Enterprise and the future of the Glass product and we are very excited by where it’s going”

“Google is supporting us with hardware, software with engineering support and business support where we need and that’s been great.” He added

So it seems business is where Google’s core focus is, which makes sense as the benefits of smartglasses for Field Service is potentially massive, particularly with companies such as Pristine.io developing applications designed for purpose.

It may take a little longer than at first expected but Glass is far from dead, and as more apps are developed for wearables devices the more wearables will become integrated into our working lives. I firmly believe it will happen, we just all got a little too excited too early.

 

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