Will the Workplace Lead Wearable Technology Adoption? Experts say adoption of wearables at work will outpace it at home thanks to improved safety, productivity, and collaboration.
This story originally appeared on Fortune Magazine
Consumer adoption of devices such as smart watches, eyeglasses, or fitness monitors is far from mainstream, at least from a global view. Still, almost three-quarters of the 9,100-plus people surveyed last month by Harris Interactive see potential benefits in workplace efficiency, productivity, and safety. Positive sentiment is especially high in Mexico, India and China.
The research was conducted on behalf of the Workforce Institute at human resources software and services company Kronos. The online poll during early September (right around the time of the Apple Watch launch) reached 9,126 adults ages 18 or older in Australia, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Mexico, and the United States.
"There's a strong belief that wearable technology will take off in the workplace before the home because devices such as smart watches, intelligent ID badges, and fitness and health monitors can provide organizations with uncharted data collection points to greatly improve safety, productivity, collaboration, and overall workplace effectiveness," says Workforce Institute director Joyce Maroney, in a statement about the findings.
She notes: "And while more and more types of wearable technologies have hit the market, the concept of wearables at work isn't new. Workers have been wearing uniforms, safety gear, ID badges, communications headsets, and so on for years to do their jobs better."
As a whole, U.S. adults were the least optimistic respondents. For example, only 48% saw a workplace benefit from wearables, versus almost 96% in Mexico, 94% in China and 91% in India. Approximately 13% of the U.S. respondents used wearables in their personal lives, compared with 73% of those from China.
The U.S. prospects for wearables in the workplace look far brighter if you look at responses from just those classified as students: almost 72% could cite at least one business benefit (compared with 48% of all U.S. respondents).
That finding echoes separate survey results released last week by PricewaterhouseCoopers that suggest 53% of Millennials are "excited" about the future of wearables, particularly in retail, entertainment, and personal healthcare applications.
To that end, it's worth noting that data generated by wearables, particularly fitness bracelets that monitor exercise and health vitals, is fast becoming a must-have component of products and services offered by weight-loss businesses.
On Tuesday, Medifast disclosed a partnership with Fitbit and joined competitors Weight Watchers and Nutrisystems in launching apps for tracking nutrition, weight, sleep patterns and other data integral to gauging progress. "Studies show that people who use journaling and tracking systems have far greater success with healthy weight management than those who do not," said Medifast CEO Mike MacDonald, in a statement.
Whether the weight-loss industry is getting ahead of itself remains to be seen. Then again, there could be 130 million wearable devices on people's wrists, heads and bodies by 2018—an adoption rate akin to those for tablet computers.