May 13, 2015
There’s no doubt that wearables are going to change how we do business, but just how will we see wearables applied across various industries?
The following is based on an interview with Ben Wilmhoff, president and founder, and Eric Roth, director of product development, of Colorado-based BluFlux RF Technologies.
Q: What kinds of jobs can best benefit from wearable technology?
“BluFlux is particularly excited about the intersection of the capabilities and convenience of wearable technology, and the demands and rigors of public safety professions. The benefit and use-case of wearable tech is strikingly clear when examining the intense working environment of first responders. Wearable technologies provide various feature sets that allow first responders to do their job without requiring interaction with the technology. This is critical in intense and dangerous environments requiring the complete focus of the responder.”
Jobs in which one needs to be physically monitored as in a dangerous environment remotely or without direct user interaction. Jobs in which data collection directly related to activities of an individual needs to be collected remotely or without direct user interaction. Jobs in which one’s performance (as can be sensed by a wearable technology) needs to be monitored remotely or without direct user interaction. Jobs in which one’s status (physical or otherwise as can be sensed by a wearable technology) needs to be monitored remotely or without direct user interaction. Jobs in which remote communications is needed but traditional hand-held devices are not suitable.
Q: What kind of benefits do wearables offer employers and employees?
“The primary benefit is in the unobtrusive characteristics of most wearables. They neither interfere with tasks and operations of the user and in many cases require minimal or no user interaction. This avoids the potential for human error, misuse and non-use.”
“Another benefit is that the real stressors of a wider variety of professions can be monitored, quantified and documented, and – most importantly – changes to the work environment or workflows can be made based on massive amounts of real working data. For example, what process or workflow changes could a large dry-cleaning franchise make to reduce injuries and workplace accidents based on wearable health monitors? How about wearable technologies that improve the safety and security of employees in workplaces with dangerous or violent individuals in the vicinity?”
Q) How do employees feel about wearables for work, to your knowledge?
“We’ve seen some unexpected resistance from categories of employees who simply fear the idea of being tracked or monitored while on the job.”
“Depends on the intent of the devices. As a safety device, there is universal acceptance. As a monitoring device, there will always be skepticism and suspicion about their use and potential misuse. For recreation and personal use (like a FitBitTM), there seems to be general acceptance and enthusiasm towards them.”
Q) What are some industries that have already adopted wearables, and what are some you see adopting them in the future?
“The largest has to be the access control industry where badge readers (a form of wearable technology) have been around for decades. This is followed closely by asset monitoring (people and things) typified by RFID tags and the like to implement real- and near real-time location. Newly to mix is the activity monitoring industry. The future is definitely aimed for full bio-medical monitoring incorporated into non-intrusive wearables ranging from heart-rhythm monitoring to blood-glucose and other instant chemical analysis. All of which will connect wirelessly to the cloud.”
“There is broad deployment of wearable fitness trackers in the first responder community throughout some larger urban departments, for the purposes of monitoring biotelemetry while on the job.”
Q) What’s the most futuristic (but realistic) scenario you can imagine for wearables in business?
A really interesting scenario has to do with professions that require uniforms. It’s not too much of a stretch to see that if employers require certain modes of dress, why not incorporate certain wearable technologies into the uniforms that can add many layers of additional visibility into operations, efficiency employee health, safety and security?
Wearables for business in the future will alert us to hazards in our work environment, important communications from coworkers, our physical and mental state for optimal performance on the job, queues for keeping organized and security (both physical and material).
Are you building a wearable device for consumer or business use? There are many design challenges to ensure proper antenna performance and challenges from signal degradation due to proximity to the human body, as well as stringent carrier requirements to consider before and as you develop and test your product.