Work-Wearables: Next Step in Major Wearable Technology Deployments?

New Zealand Herald has an interesting opinion piece on the promise of wearable tech in work-wearables. The author makes several good points about why work wearables look like a promising area: work wearables have more reasons to be wearable, their price is easier to justify, and one won’t necessarily have to worry as much about style.

Different from, say, using existing lifestyle trackers for figuring out the employees’ levels of fitness, the argument is for wearables as tools for getting work done. Like smart uniforms that have long been envisioned by different military agencies — helping people be more productive in the 3rd of the lifetime that they spend at work.

I would add a couple engineering points to what makes work wearables different from lifestyle wearables:

  • In many instances, a company that deploys work wearables has control of both the wearable and its entire environment, that is, the company-owned space: an office, a store, a warehouse. From the engineering points of view, this helps, as we can build digital infrastructure and not have to cram all functionality directly into the wearable. For example, solutions like Disney’s Magic Bands work because Disney owns the parks and can deploy the corresponding infrastructure.
  • Security and privacy tradeoffs are different for work wearables and lifestyle wearables. The data collected by company’s wearables needs to be well-protected, just like the data collected by other types of company equipment (and there are additional legal considerations that need to be taken into account in work wearables). At the same time, individual’s expectations about the privacy of their particular data streams are different in work applications and in general lifestyle applications. At home, I expect the information about doors I opened and closed to be known to me and me alone. At work, I am fully aware of my employer’s access to all my badge swipes information.

Related — wearable tech in general:

Related — specific work applications of wearable devices:

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