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Enterprise and wearables: A match made in heaven?

By Will Powell

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itpro-wearableIn recent years, we have seen that wearable technologies such as smart glasses and smart watches have been met with a flat response.

However in the enterprise space these technologies can provide real benefit in key areas such as ones that require speed, safety and working with large data which a consumer is not exposed to.

For enterprise, the process benefit outweighs the fashionability of a device. Enterprise provides the driving force behind wearables rather than the bring your own device (BYOD) that drove mobility into enterprise.

Enterprise app developers are now really pushing what is possible with wearable technology for enterprise applications. Our first publicly demoed application in this space was around dealing with the condition of knowing what information is important if you are a sales manager within an organisation.

Our application allowed a user with smart glasses (full vision covering not a HMD) to merely look at a product and it then overlaid the latest advertising campaign, a full 3D globe of sales and sales team statistics. The user is also able to interact with hands natively.

This demonstrated firstly what is technically possible alongside the strengths and failings of wearable technology. Secondly it showed a device existing out of the user’s pocket like smart watches and HMD so the device is easily accessible and has the ability to be sensing or looking at the user’s environment – no longer requiring the need to be opened or unlocked or data entry as with smart phones but actively pushing information to the users area of attention.

Thirdly it showed that key technologies about understanding the environment are crucial to leverage the nature of a wearable device to its full potential such as Augmented Reality, GPS, Gyros and Compass.

Finally it showed that enterprise applications on wearables can focus on doing particular tasks very well, for instance by aiding a warehouse item picker or service engineer assistant, but consumers require a more versatile device for more aspects of their lives. As a result enterprise can also justify the investment in the technology because of efficiency saving and or safety improvement.

Enterprise can also make use of virtual reality which is partially in the wearable technology domain with the likes of the Samsung Gear VR and the Keytree Rift, which is a custom headset construction.

The use of VR in enterprise is a new tier for applications that involve data visualisation, training, product design and much more. The next step for the gaming VR systems such as the Oculus Rift is to break the physical link to the computer to become truly mobile wearable technology.

We recently demonstrated a proof of concept where we used the Oculus Rift and full body and hand tracking for an engineer to examine data feeds from the UK electricity transmission network.

This involved an engineer putting a headset on and then giving him the ability to select one of the 24,000 pylons on the network and experience the pylon in a simulated climate and terrain to the real entity. This provides huge enterprise savings in that a single engineer can virtually travel to any site across the country in seconds and call outs are reduced to only those that are required.

We are currently working with partners and clients to bring enterprise wearable applications to market. They cover everything from mobile application wearable assistant apps akin to the Apple Watch methodology to HMD applications and smart watches to wearable sensors such as brain wave (Muse) and muscle motion detectors (MYO).

The ultimate question for enterprise as always however, is seeing the value add that wearable provides to the business.
Will Powell is head of innovation at Keytree.

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