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Depending on whom you ask, wearable devices such as smartwatches will either be relegated to consumer playthings or end up playing a vital role in business and IT strategies at companies of all sizes. This piece takes a deep dive into what analysts and research studies say about the role wearables will play in business in the coming years — and look at how developers can take advantage of existing tools to explore wearable applications today.
What Analysts Say About the Growth of Wearables
Analysts universally agree that the wearable market is poised for takeoff. Gartner forecasts that worldwide wearable device sales will generate total revenue of $28.7 billion (274.6 million units) in 2016, up 18.4 percent over 2015 (232 million units). A big chunk of that will come from smartwatches — $11.5 billion this year – and leading the way will be the Apple Watch. Angela McIntyre, research director at Gartner, explains, “From 2015 through 2017, smartwatch adoption will have 48 percent growth largely due to Apple popularizing wearables as a lifestyle trend. Smartwatches have the greatest revenue potential among all wearables through 2019, reaching $17.5 billion.”
The same report also cites that head mounted displays (HMDs), which are currently little more than a market afterthought, are on track to become mainstream devices, and will grow from 140,000 units sold in 2015 to 6.31 million in 2017. Forecasters also predict that these devices will have significant uses in businesses. The report notes, “Enterprise use of HMDs will also grow in the coming years with 26 percent of HMDs designed for business use in 2018. HMDs will be purchased by businesses for use by employees for tasks such as equipment repair, inspections and maintenance. Workers also will use HMDs for viewing instructions and directions hands-free while they are performing a task.”
IDC offers similar forecasts about the wearables market. Its Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker says the world wearable device market “will reach a total of 111.1 million units shipped in 2016, up a strong 44.4 percent from the 80 million units expected to ship shipped in 2015.” IDC predicts that by 2019, total wearables sales will reach 214.6 million units for a five-year
compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 28 percent.
Wearable in the Enterprise
Smartwatches and fitness trackers are the most visible wearables aimed at consumers. But wearables are expected to become big in the enterprise as well, according to reports and analysts, and will result in billions of dollars of benefits for the companies who use them. Why? One way to think about wearables is that they can be viewed as sensors, and businesses have increasingly been incorporating sensors into their IT business applications and mobile apps in recent years. For example, a smartwatch is a sensor connected to the body – it has a sensor that monitors your heart rate, temperature or movement and that information can be collected and transmitted to a mobile device. This is not different conceptually from industrial sensors – for example, a temperature sensor that resides in a refrigerated delivery truck or a motion sensor that monitors room usage. In the context of mobile devices and applications, the concept of a sensor and a wearable are going to be interchangeable. Both collect data, and mobile apps are all about reacting, displaying and responding to data.
Given this similarity, businesses are already signaling a sizable demand for wearable technology. Forrester Research’s “The Enterprise Wearables Journey” found that: “Today, 51 percent of
technology and business leaders identify wearables as a critical, high, or moderate priority for their organization.”
APX Labs, which offers solutions for smart glasses and smartwatches, predicts in its report, “What’s Next in Wearable Technology,” that “enterprise adoption of wearables will jump by
six-fold in 2016. Enterprise deployments will rapidly grow from the dozens to the thousands as wearables reach a greater level of maturity and market acceptance.” It also says that 2016 “will bring the slow motion collision of the Internet of Things and wearables.” The report adds, “Wearable devices, such as smart glasses, represent an unprecedented opportunity to interact with real-time sensor information, workflows and reference documents, as well as collaborate with other workers in a hands-free manner.” The company claims that 93 percent of companies it surveyed are using or actively evaluating wearables.
Compass Intelligence estimates that business and enterprise use of wearables will have a 139 percent CAGR from 2014 to 2019, with growth driven by the medical/healthcare, industrial, oil and gas, and field services industries.
Gartner is particularly bullish on smart glasses bringing innovation to the workplace and improving efficiency. Technicians, engineers and other workers in field service, maintenance, healthcare and manufacturing will be the initial beneficiaries. Angela McIntyre at Gartner, says, “In the next three to five years, the industry that is likely to experience the greatest benefit from smart glasses is field service, potentially increasing profits by $1 billion annually. 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.”
Forrester Research analyst J.P. Gownder is also a big believer in the future of wearables in the enterprise. He notes that, “While consumers’ interest in wearables has grown strong, businesses’
demand for wearables is even greater. Today, 68% of global technology and business decision-makers say that wearables are a priority for their firm, with 51% calling it a moderate, high, or
Development and Deployment Tools for Exploring Wearables Today
Given the adoption of mobile devices and wearables in enterprises, what is considered a business productivity app will change. While spreadsheets and other traditional business applications won’t go away, developers will need to hone their skills to develop critical task-based apps or alerts that work well on smaller screens or incorporate mobile data like voice, photos or video.
Clearly, wearables are poised to become big in the enterprise this year — and there’s plenty that developers can do today to be prepared. The following table summarizes the offerings of four
vendors that provide tools to help developers begin to integrate wearable technology into enterprises.
|Vendor||Wearable Development Tool||URL|
Alpha WatchBench, free tool lets users create a working prototype app for Apple Watch using their iPhone.
Enterprise mobility management platform supports Apple Watch.
Salesforce Wear, a set of tools, open source code, and workflow for more than a dozen wearable devices.
Solutions for integrating smart glasses and smart watches into the enterprise.
The upshot of all this? Wearables will become increasingly important in enterprises, beginning in 2016 and developers should be prepared for the resulting app requests. By applying their previous experience with sensors and mobile apps, and utilizing some of the new wearable prototyping and development tools available, they can begin to explore the possibilities and test early ideas for wearable apps. At that point, they’ll be ready to lead their organization into the IoT age.
As Vice President of Marketing, AMY GRODEN-MORRISON is responsible for product positioning, go-to-market and communications programs for Alpha Software Corporation. She has served over 15 years in marketing communications leadership roles at companies such as TIBCO Software, Spotfire, RSA Security and Ziff-Davis.
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