By the Blouin News Technology staff

FEATURE: Can businesses catch up to the wearables craze?

by in Enterprise Tech.

A South Korean employee shows the 'Apple Watch' at an Apple shop in Seoul on June 26, 2015. JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images

A South Korean employee shows the ‘Apple Watch’ at an Apple shop in Seoul on June 26, 2015. JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images

The advent of hot gadgets like the Apple Watch have bolstered the wearable market and the internet of things, meaning wearable devices are becoming a reality for the average consumer. Remember that wearables have been an emerging market for years — companies like Samsung and Qualcomm issued smartwatches back in 2013 — but consumers were initially slow to adopt the devices. Then, what may be popular with consumers usually takes a bit longer to get to businesses.

Surveys have found that enterprises are interested in wearables and keen on finding out how they can improve business operations, but some feel that there are not enough products ready for adoption into the corporate environment. While there are clearcut obstacles inhibiting the widespread adoption of wearables into the business world, there are products waiting in the wings to change the landscape of devices used on a corporate level.

Lack of proper infrastructure for a network of wearables is one hurdle. As we’ve discussed on Blouin News before, the internet of things needs a standard in order to fulfill its projected massive market value (wearables alone are currently projected to reach $8.5 billion by 2020, according to Research and Markets). Various tech companies are looking at how to define protocols for the internet of things, which includes wearables, and creating platforms for wearables’ functions. Gabe Grifoni, CEO and co-founder of Rufus Labs — a startup in wearable consumer electronics that created the Rufus Cuff — told Blouin News that there are two inhibiting factors for businesses adopting wearables. One is the infrastructure aspect. “Adding WiFi access points and Bluetooth beacons throughout a facility is essential,” he said. The second is the actual product development.

…we just need better hardware and software. Wearables are just getting started. Over the next few years workers will be wearing many different types of technology that will work in symbiosis to provide better efficiency and safety in the workplace.

Grifoni’s product was created with this potential use in the industrial sector in mind. He projects that the future of the wearable in the corporate environment will fully change the landscape of devices in the workplace:

At first these wearables will be company owned and not so much BYOD [bring-your-own-device]. They’re expensive and consumers aren’t used to them yet. As wearables gain more traction on the consumer front by 2018-2020, I see a shift in that as well. Smartphones will be dying and consumers will have some, or multiple, forms of connected wearables as replacements. Eventually these consumer wearables will get to the same WYOD (Wear Your Own Device) treatment.

So, if Grifoni is right, both manufacturers and corporations need to look ahead to the future of WYOD instead of BYOD (some businesses are still developing legal policies for the latter). He says that the nature of the wearable — its exposure to the elements, unlike smartphones that can be kept in a bag or pocket — requires that manufacturers look to ruggedness, long-lasting hardware, long battery life, and comfort as the key aspects that will comprise a successful wearable. The battery challenge will be one of the most important developments as wearables are inherently smaller than other devices, and therefore can’t accommodate large batteries. This is going to matter to the enterprise world — especially in the industrial sectors where full battery is needed for 8-12 hour shifts, Grifoni warns. Manufacturers are going to have to find ways to extend the lives of devices.

Software is also going to have to step up its game for wearables, and hardware must progress in tandem. In order to appeal broadly to businesses, all of these elements must be in place. More challenges lie in actual design. “Hardware manufacturers need to become fashion designers,” Grifoni says. Making the user comfortable and empowered with a computer on his or her body is a main objective.

Despite these challenges, progress in the wearable field is moving swiftly. Software is making strides, and more manufacturers are looking at comfort and practicality. And Grifoni says that there are plenty of devices already on the market that should appeal to businesses, citing eye wear and wrist wear as the two frontrunners that will begin to change the corporate landscape. It’s a matter of jumping the aforementioned hurdles. While it may seem as though the market is at square one, the work being done to develop both software and hardware is far beyond that, even in these initial stages of adoption.

As Grifoni noted: “Companies are already using both of these technologies in trials and real world applications. This is the start of a greater adoption in the years to come as hardware becomes more enticing, but rest assured, what’s out there now is already getting a lot of interest and adoption.”

Indeed, this entire industry has the potential to reshape the way technology is employed in the corporate environment. As we are still seeing with BYOD, companies are forced to wrestle with technological advancements in mobile — in this case, it will be the internet of things.