When we talk about wearables in the enterprise, most of us immediately think about smartwatches — and understandably so. Global sales of smartwatches are expected to more than double to 66.7 million in 2017 from 30.3 million in 2015, according to a recent forecast from Gartner.
But Gartner’s breakdown of the wearables market also included a number of devices that are gaining in usage and inevitably will make their way into the enterprise, if they haven’t already. These include:
- Wristbands (44.1 million units in 2017, up from 30 million in 2015)
- Head-mounted displays (6.3 million units in 2017, up from 140,000 in 2015)
- Smart garments (5.3 million in 2017, up from 60,000 units in 2015)
- Body-worn cameras (1.05 million in 2017, up from 50,000 units in 2015)
While many of these devices may have limited use cases, they will find a home in some industries. Head-mounted displays and body-worn cameras could be highly valuable to field workers doing remote repairs of equipment, inspecting construction or disaster sites or simply gathering visual data to archive for future use and analysis.
The challenge for IT pros and apps developers is to ensure these devices are able to connect and communicate with other enterprise assets in a secure fashion. In a column on provisioning reliable wireless connectivity for wearables published in Electronic Design, Paul Gough, principal corporate strategy at u-blox, a Switzerland-based vendor of wireless and positioning semiconductors and modules for commercial and consumer markets, notes that there are many variables for developers to consider.
“When faced with developing, for example, a new fitness band, the engineer needs to think about how much data will need to be transferred, how frequently, and over what range it would typically need to be sent,” Gough writes. “For nearly every application, there will be a trade off between range, data rate, and use case to be considered.”
Other questions include:
- Do some applications (such as for tracking bands worn by workers in isolated environments) need the ability to choose the necessary cellular communication mode?
- Do some wearables need more reliable indoor connectivity?
- Do the devices require higher battery capacity?
Gough advises developers to thoroughly understand device requirements before designing. I’d agree, and add that the way to fully understand those requirements is to adopt a user-centric approach in which the employees who will be wearing the devices have input into the design and testing process.
Line-of-business leaders also should be in the development loop to ensure that the features and functionality requested by employees align with the goals of the business.
Does your enterprise have a user-centric wearables development program?