When you hear the term “wearables”, you think of smart watches, fitbits and other consumer oriented devices. But the real market for wearables will be in the enterprise, such as on the shop floor, warehouses and in the conference rooms. This is the research I am working on right now.
Initial deployments should be industrial applications that have use cases that are specific with clear efficiency metrics and goals. Although some believe the “killer app” is the ability to work hands-free, the real level of personalization is the ability for the environment to recognize the user and his/her needs via their role in the organization. Entry/physical access, two factor authentication, personal preferences for heating and lighting, all of these can come from user recognition.
Another aspect of wearables is worker protection. For example, integrating intelligent textiles into clothing provides the possibility of changing color when exposed to damaging chemicals and/or radiation, warning the user of exposure in a way more immediately noticed than gauges or readings. Shape memory fabrics/garments can potentially be manufactured as novel fabrics which respond to the temperature stimulation, protecting workers by telling them when they might be in danger of cold or heat. And shear thickening fluid can be used for use in protective clothing as liquid body armour as it behaves as a liquid until it is exposed to mechanical stress. At that point, within a matter of milliseconds, it hardens into a solid. So when there is no threat to the wearer’s safety, he or she experiences little impairment in flexibility or range of motion, which is excellent for a warehouse or dock worker.
The eventual use of wearables among knowledge workers will be more of a generalized phenomenon, particularly when the devices become as multifunctional as their smart phones are. As many wear company badges for access to facilities, these could be become not only more fashionable but multifunctional as RFID and other technologies could be added to adapt the functionality to the role of the wearer.
Interested? Get in touch with me.