The new CIO fitout: Wearable tech

The new CIO fitout: Wearable tech

How to prepare your organisation for Google Glass and the next ‘bring your own’ range

While waiting for the bus, people can play tennis. Their heads are swaying from one side to the other, eyes focused on one side of their spectacles.

A truck driver gets the direction to his next assignment, without the need to stop on the road to get details from his mobile phone, or his laptop. The details are streamed to him while driving on the state highway.

In another office at the central business district, an executive typing a report on her PC, is multitasking, checking how her stock portfolio is performing. She carries on with her work, as the stock market details are delivered to her.

These are just some of the scenarios one can expect as Google Glass takes off in upcoming months.

For Sulabh Sharma, managing director of Sush Mobile, these are not hypothetical situations. They are happening, right now across the globe, and in Sush Mobile’s central Auckland office, he and his team are working on a range of apps for Google Glass for their enterprise clients.

Wearable devices are going to be one of the key components in the whole digital strategy for businesses.

Sulabh Sharma, Sush Mobile

“It is something that might not take over phones but it will still be a screen, a second screen that will take away a lot of interactions from your phones,” he tells CIO New Zealand. “These are good for clients and corporations where you have to consume small amounts of information which is frequent,” he adds. “But you will still be going back to your tablets and phones for more intense information.”

“It is not just Google Glass,” he notes. “Wearable devices are going to be one of the key components in the whole digital strategy for businesses.”

Related:Smartglasses should be part of BYOD policies: Gartner CIOs are taking a fresh look at impact of wearable electronics on the enterprise.

Explosive growth of a new category

Cisco, for instance, has predicted a massive growth in the number of connected wearables – as well as data they will generate – in its Visual Networking Index (VNI) Mobile Data Forecast.

The latest report, which looked at trends in mobile traffic and devices between 2013 and 2018, notes globally that ‘connected wearables’ will grow eight-fold. By 2018, 13 per cent of these devices will have embedded cellular connectivity. Data from these devices, meanwhile, will grow 36-fold, or a compound annual growth rate of 105 per cent over the same period.

Dr Robert Pepper, VP, global technology policy at Cisco, says wearables delivered the ‘aha’ factor in the age of connected devices

The wearables are a new category, it didn’t show up in 2013.

Dr Robert Pepper, Cisco

While the annual report showed continued dramatic growth in mobile data, the "biggest explosive" growth of mM2M (machine to machine) and wearables stood out.

“The wearables are a new category, it didn’t show up in 2013,” he says.

It is a substantiation of the Internet of Things, he says. “We are just at the beginning” of a trend.

Plan now

“Now is the time to start planning for enterprise wearables,” says J. P. Gownder, vice president and principal analyst for infrastructure and operations at Forrester.

Gownder notes the adoption of wearables will happen over a decade, but forward looking companies will start planning how to leverage the power of these devices to benefit the business.

In a report entitled The Enterprise Wearables Journey, Gownder provides a timeline for enterprises moving into this space.

The next two years will be the “nascent stages”, and will see piloting and early adoption, he writes. Vendors are still working on the offerings, he notes. “Even the much-heralded Google Glass remains in beta.” Enterprise wearables will find uses in healthcare, public safety, and industries with numerous field workers during this period.

Mainstream use is predicted to happen in 2017 to 2019. Developer ecosystems will mature by 2017, creating apps, back-end software, and services to support enterprise-class wearables implementations on a wider scale, he says. Industries with highly mobile employees will welcome wearables as these ecosystems grow, he states.

“2020 to 2024 will see the move to business-centrality,” he writes. Wearables will be common at many enterprises and will be specialised for certain industries and roles.

He says it is imperative for infrastructure and operations professionals to work with business stakeholders to re-engineer the business processes surrounding the devices.

He lists three steps to take:

Rewrite the script: The first step, as for any employee with any wearable device, is “creating a coherent purpose and a standard usage model”. Design processes for how, when, and why they will be used.

Retrain staff: The next step is to help employees internalise the use of the devices. Unlike tablets or smartphones, they won’t be using the devices in their personal lives, he notes. Training on the processes and the devices is critical. It should include developing and measuring key performance indicators (KPIs) to ensure that employees are succeeding with the devices.

Engage with customers: Fine-tune the processes and training following repeated use of the devices by customers, he advises.

The final friction

So what key things should organisations consider when they pilot Google Glass and other wearable technology?

“Do a business case,” says Sheenu Chawla, managing director at Sush Mobile. “What is going to provide value to the business?”

It can be an app, she says, that can send a push notification to the user if a metric goes beyond a certain figure.

Chawla says a main consideration when developing apps is the “limited screen size” for the wearables, specifically for Google Glass.

“Information and apps that are built have to be done purposely for that screen. It should not have as much information as your website,” she states. “It is very important you put the right content depending on the device you are using.”

A main consideration when developing apps is the 'limited screen size' for the wearables.

Sheenu Chawla, Sush Mobile

Unlike smartphones which entered the business through what is now known as consumerisation of technology, wearable devices are sold on niche user cases, says Sulabh Sharma, Sush Mobile managing director.

Sharma says some industries will find “huge applications” for the technology. In the health sector, for instance, it is going to be a key area if the technology can be integrated with the back end and provide, “real-time information to the practitioners”. These include doctors “who can refer to whatever information they want” while doing surgery, or talking to a patient.

Related: Westpac trials Google Glass & iBeacon

Chawla says field workers need not go back to the branch or check their phone to get details on their jobs or what equipment they will be needing. Getting these through Google Glass “is much easier than looking at your phone.”

Sport is another area, as athletes can check their performance in real time, such as how far they have cycled, or the rate of their heartbeat.

At the end of the day, the consumer take-up is completely dependent on how Google will push these devices, says Sharma.

Both note price is a prime factor – as the current version of Google Glass is expected to cost up to NZ$300 per unit.

Sharma points out that Google Glass also has “more friction” than other wearable devices.

It is the “geeky look”, he explains. “It is visible on your face, it has some ‘friction’ for consumers, as compared to a watch.

“But who knows if the geeky fashion will take off, or Google Glass might change dramatically in the third version,” he adds. “Or make it more fashionable,” concludes Chawla.

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Tags Cisco SystemsForrester ResearchCIOGoogle GlassSush MobileWearablesJ. P. Gownder

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