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Wearable tech is waging a war for the hearts and minds of consumers. Early adopters praise them for the fresh perspective while skeptics ban them for fears of privacy violation. Although the consumer arena is drawing the most attention, businesses are quietly waving the white flag by adopting the products without much hassle. The argument for wearables certainly makes sense in theory, but will they benefit all businesses in a practical way? Each business has to make its own call, but the benefits are undoubtedly biased.

Those That It Will Help

Manual Labor

Wearables in contracted labor excel best by providing a point-of-view feed and recording of the work. From laying tile to fixing broken AC units, businesses can have senior employees in dozens of places when viewing the feed from field workers. Complex work would no longer require multiple trips in order to access the situation as experts could work directly through employees on site without restriction. This surrogate labor significantly reduces turnaround time saving energy, gas expense, and improves customer satisfaction.
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Using recorded point-of-view feed as training videos is another added benefit. Industries whose success is based on high quality work, not academics, require apprenticeship-like training that creates the next generation of seasoned workers. Experts in the field are typically limited in the amount of employees they are capable of training, but with documented work from a professional, wearables could spread quality work among thousands of technicians across multiple companies.

Retail

With cheaper prices and acceptable delivery times, purchasing products in physical locations is making less and less sense than ever before. Although this means a steady decline in brick and mortar locations, retail is undergoing an evolution rather than an extinction. Chain businesses like Best Buy have abandoned aggressive sales tactics and replaced it with the one feature online cannot provide: product demonstration. This business redesign stretches beyond the business model and completely reworks how the physical store functions. Popular retail outlets like Apple Stores adopted this new model early on by ditching the stationary cashier locations and replacing them with mobile checkouts with every employee regardless of location.

The concept isn’t new, but wearables have the potential of making the experience exactly what was dreamed of on paper. Rather than having associates disengage with customers for product inventory or additional information, wearables allow for them to have free access in the moment. Smartwatches and Google Glass could provide physical retail with the needed edge to maintain relevance in an online shopping world.

Healthcare

When Dr. Steven Horng of Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital purchased Google Glass for ER physicians, healthcare became one of the first industries to adopt wearable technology. With the HITECH Act going into effect this november, all healthcare records must transition from paper to digital regardless of client size. This means the largest networks of hospitals to the smallest practices must maintain a digital record system.

Wearables entered the market at the best possible time as it fulfilled a desperate need within the medical field. Dr. Horng had dreamed “about wearable computing…about getting away from the computer and back to the bedside,” but it simply wasn’t possible at the time.

Doctors used to performing day to day operations with a pen and clipboard were hindered by bulky laptops and layers of security that ultimately placed a drag on the number of patients capable of being seen. Wearable technology is filling this niche by giving doctors the operating freedom they are accustomed to while still providing secure digital documentation.

Marketing

For marketing, wearables affect the industry differently than those listed above. While other industries benefit internally from wearable devices, the level of benefit for marketing is directly related to consumer use. Even without wearables, companies like Apple have developed targeted location alerts with a new product called iBeacon. If a customer is browsing a certain section of store, the device will communicate with the user’s smartphone and provide additional information, services, or promotions related to the exact item the customer is viewing.

Wearables would help to expand this market by providing information on a user’s heads up display for Google Glass or on his wrist with a smartwatch. Similar products like iBeacon are coming closer to market, which means content delivery in the near future will not only have pinpoint precision but the bonus of instant attention via wearables. When content consumption becomes as easy as checking the time, the sky is the limit for a new frontier in marketing.

And Those It Won’t

Customer Support

Although some have speculated about the potential for wearables in the customer service field, most businesses would be wise to use tried and true methods of service delivery. Employee’s in an office setting need to have a range of access to documentation, email, and a host of other applications that promote communication and ticket tracking. Laptops, Desktops, and the occasional use of mobile devices are still the best means of accomplishing the multitasking needs in a helpdesk environment.

With social media support being phased into traditional helpdesk responsibilities, wearables would only make the process more difficult as keyboards and multiple screens would be completely impossible. There are plenty of new trends to adopt for the support industry that can help turn around times and improve customer satisfaction, but wearables at the moment are not one of them.

Office Spaces

Typical office spaces suffer the same lack of need as customer support centers. Office employees will always have a laundry list of how to improve interoffice communication, but wearables aren’t the silver bullet. Most offices utilize traditional desk spaces for productivity and business functions while mobile is a secondary for home and travel use. Wearables have the potential of being an asset in these rare occasions, but the sheer cost alone would outweigh any small benefit seen as a result.

When Silicon Valley introduced wearable technology, it opened the public’s eyes to the possibilities of the future. For some lucky businesses, that future is now, but looking closely at the practical use is the best measure to avoid the pitfalls of hype without substance.