Survey Shows Robust Interest in Workplace Wearables

Smart watches and glasses are the two most-cited wearable technologies being evaluated among 200 companies queried in the industrial sector.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Sep 18, 2015

Wearable technology is coming to the workplace, and sooner than you might expect. That is the takeaway from a survey, "The State of Enterprise Wearable Technology," that APX Labs commissioned this summer. APX Labs makes the Skylight operating system, designed to support enterprise applications for wearable technology, such as smart glasses and smart watches. Several manufacturers, telecom providers and utilities are developing or already running proof-of-concept (POC) evaluations for wearables applications.

Zogby Analytics, an independent market-research firm, conducted the survey in June 2015. It asked 200 IT leaders and C-suite executives from industrial sector companies, with as few as 500 employees to upwards of 5,000, to respond to a range of questions related to wearable technology and workplace applications. APX Labs incorporated the study's results into an online white paper.

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Nearly every company that responded to the survey said it was evaluating wearable technology applications, and 79 percent indicated they've begun pilot tests this year, with more than half reporting that they plan to start tests in 2015.

"As a business leader, the best news is that I'm not late to the market—it's just taking off now," says Brian Ballard, APX Labs' CEO and co-founder. "One thing that surprised us is that 93 percent of respondents are evaluating wearables. We have a good understanding of which companies are using it, but [with the] early projects, you only hear about them once they leave the walls of the company."

Ballard says plenty of reports have analyzed the entire spectrum of wearable technology products and applications—just this week, International Data Corp. (IDC) said it expects 76.1 million wearable products will be shipped this year, up 163.6 percent from 2014—but those reports always include consumer products. APX Labs commissioned the survey in order to better understand the growth of wearables in enterprise and, more specifically, industrial applications. Companies in government, nonprofit, education, professional services, media, hospitality, health care and financial services were not surveyed.

Ballard asserts that "people who are sitting at a desk are already well served" by technology. But on the other hand, he says, "the more blue-collar, the more you're going to [benefit from] using smart watches or smart glasses." He makes one important exception: white-collar workers in sales roles and others who spend more of their time out of the office and can a see quick return on the use of smart watches that allow them to be more responsive to potential sales.

"The biggest surprise was the number of respondents who said that they are running smart watch programs," Ballard says, referencing the use of watches capable of messaging. "We knew of a lot of projects using smart watches, but our bias was that their value would not be as strong as glasses. However, [smart watches] do solve a need [in the workplace]."

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