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Smart wearables: growth and impact on field service

Wearable devices are the most discussed technology trend currently. Any computing device  that you can attach to your body is a wearable, e.g. a bluetooth headset. However devices like smart watches and head mounted displays are true wearable computers. They bring contextual information to the fingertips of the user.  Wearables may very well be the next game changers after (or along with?) smartphones for enterprises.

Android, the most popular mobile operating system, is now available for wearable devices. LG, HTC, Samsung and recently Motorola with their Moto-360 smartwatch, have partnered with Google for wearable production. There is a fantastic ecosystem for ubiquitous computing in the form the PlayStore & cloud connected apps and low-energy bluetooth. This is evident in the adoption rate among consumers: 2.5 million Android users owned a wearable in February 2014 alone.

With Apple Watch announced and expected in early 2015, the wearable industry looks exciting and the possibilities immense.

canalys-charts.png


Wearables can deliver contextual information like location based alerts, instant messages and email, traffic updates, calendar invites right at your fingertips. This enabled by advances in touchscreen and speech recognition technology. For example you could simply say ”Ok, google, show me my agenda” to your android wearable and you’ll get your events on smartwatch face.


The field service industry could be one of the key beneficiaries from wearables. According to Gartner, their profits could potentially increase by 1 billion USD by adoption of wearables. “The greatest savings in field service will come from diagnosing and fixing problems more quickly and without needing to bring additional experts to remote sites.” said Angela McIntyre, research director at Gartner.

Wearable devices have already been prototyped and deployed for maintenance where technicians had to work in tight spaces, consult large volumes of documentation, and any mistakes had very serious repercussions. Wearables add capabilities like voice interaction and notification delivery without interrupting the technician during their work. It’s much faster to say “next” or touch the wearable device and then glance at the next instruction than it is to interact with a smartphone or tablet after each step.


A possible roadblock that may delay rapid adoption of wearables in field service might be the battery life. A smartwatch like the LG G watch lasts for 1.5 to 2 days. This means it may wear out during active use in field. Hence, an improved battery life will certainly make a huge impact on adoption rates.


Wider deployment in the field service industry is just getting started. With the rapid rise in quality and availability of affordable wearable technology, there is every indication that adoptions will spike. As always, early adopters will make the most out of this new wave.


Graph source: 1.6 million smart bands shipped in H2 2013 [canalys.com]

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