Wearables at Work - Apple Watch, Android Wear and BYOD Policies

DevToolsGuy / Thursday, January 14, 2016

The idea of wearable tech at work is hardly new - from call center headsets to wrist computers, companies have been innovating with the idea for decades. With benefits including improved productivity, time saved and increased contact with field workers, the motivation for businesses to invest in such tools are considerable. While there are concerns that this kind of technology encroaches on the freedom of employees as they are monitored ever more closely, they’ve also been proven to help workers in a variety of ways - from reducing stress to improving health to making their workplaces safer.

There’s a strong argument which claims that wearable tech in general will see quicker adoption in the workplace than at home. There are a number of reasons why this might be, yet perhaps the most obvious is that there are simply a wider range of use cases for wearable tech in professional environments than in peoples’ personal lives. From security, to tracking the progress of workers to helping them complete tasks, companies are very interested in possible applications of the tech. The Apple Watch and Android Wear have so far been aimed at the consumer market, yet following the BYOD trend, it looks likely that many workers will begin bringing their own wearables to the office. So, what might all this mean for enterprise app developers?

The potential of wearable tech

In a recent survey with 500 professionals and wearable adopters, there was widespread interest in the use of the technology in the workplace. 94% of respondents had either already embraced Bring Your Own Wearables (BYOW) or were planning to introduce such a policy soon. Those who had already brought in such policies reported a variety of positive outcomes, including improved customer experience and better business performance.

Why are businesses so interested in BYOW? Besides the more obvious email and security possibilities, BYOW is popular because:

  • It is hands free - so workers can multitask
  • It lets you report on real-time activity
  • It can authenticate the user’s exact location
  • Has low power requirements

Respondents also explained that they were only just beginning to understand the potential of the tech. At present, use cases are fairly limited and focus more on basic goals such as workplace security access, employee time management and real time communications. However, there is a very strong interest in the potential of wearable business apps and as developers respond to requirements, the potential for growth in this market is enormous. Significantly, Apple Watch and Android Wear were cited as wearables of particular interest for businesses who hope to encourage BYOW.

Wearable ready

As an increasing number of companies embrace BYOW, there will be a corresponding need to create apps which correspond with the needs of enterprises. To avoid fears around privacy, third party developers will also need to ensure the apps they build provide workers with control over how these tools blur the boundary between home and work life. It’s one thing for the boss to monitor you while you’re on company time, it’s a whole other issue for your activities to be tracked during the evening and days off.

Areas where we can expect to see a particularly large range of use cases for BYOW include:

  • Defense: for tracking personnel, ensuring their safety and protecting assets
  • Healthcare: to let medical professionals multitask and find out information hands-free
  • Manufacturing: for time management, progress reporting and to measure stress
  • Distribution: for tracking progress, real time communications, traffic warnings and providing directions
  • Retail: shop floor communication, reporting on low stock and aiding customers

For all of these advanced use cases, there will be a growing need for high quality apps to correspond with specific business needs. These will have to be secure and allow workers to maintain their own privacy while also allowing companies to control how the apps are used - many organizations will be nervous about staff being able to record and store business critical information on their wearable devices.

Preparing for a BYOW future

The potential for BYOW is enormous. While the consumer use cases for wearable tech often feel limited to health tracking, GPS and checking your messages, their possibilities in the workplace are enormous. Android Wear and the Apple Watch offer some of the most sophisticated wearable tools yet and are likely to see widespread adoption, yet also require a whole new approach to app development. See Xamarin’s Android Wear and Apple Watch guidelines and discover how you can help businesses get the most out of BYOW.