The use of health monitors and fitness trackers have exploded in recent years -- but expect the next frontier in wearable technologies to be in the workplace. The implications for worker safety and productivity are promising. While Google first introduced its revolutionary Glass to consumers, the current marketing direction is aimed at custom work applications.
One example of this is Patrick Jackson, a firefighter in North Carolina's Rocky Mountain fire department: This Firefighter Built His Own Google Glass App And It's Saving Lives.
Jackson is also a member of the Google Glass Explorer program and has developed an app that displays incoming emergency dispatches, shows maps of where incidents are, nearest fire hydrants, and even building plans. You can see a brief demo of Glass at work in the short clip, below. In addition, "Jackson is also working on a CPR assist app for Glass, measuring the speed of compressions, and whether you need to speed up or slow down based on sensors that detect head movement. He's teaming with a Michigan startup called team (evermed) during his days off from the department, where he spends 10 days per month working grueling 24-hour shifts."
The article also suggest another work safety application in DriveSafe, a Google Glass app that uses infrared sensors to detect when you doze off and to issue alarms to wake you and direct you to the next rest area.
PC World takes a look at other potential workplace applications for smartglasses , noting that, "The future of smartglasses will be realized by a factory worker operating a 3000-pound stamp press, not a gamer stomping on virtual-reality bad guys. Face computers will be all about scanning bar codes on cardboard boxes, not scanning tourist attractions for augmented reality overlays." They present a variety of work scenarios, from hands free scanning and troubleshooting to safety applications.
FierceCIO explores the topic further in Making wearables a good fit for workplace safety. They discuss potential safety applications and suggest that gaining optimal value from wearable devices will require IT departments to innovate with software applications, data management and administrative protocols and policies.
We're really just at the threshold of wearables in the workplace. To see more of the opportunities, this excellent Deloitte University Press primer by Shehryar Khan and Evangeline Marzec on Wearables is helpful in exploring the potential of everything from productivity, training and worker safety:
"Wearables' value comes from introducing technology into previously prohibitive environments--where safety, logistics, or even etiquette have constrained traditional technology solutions. Wearables can be the first seamless way to enable workers with digital information--especially where hands-free utility offers a clear advantage. For example, using wearables, workers in harsh environmental conditions can access data without removing gloves or create records without having to commit data to memory and then moving to a sheltered workstation."
Wearables are not without their HR and IT challenges. Susan Kuchinskas explores some of these issues in Forbes: How To Prepare Your Business For Wearable Technology. Also see:The Wearable Technology Revolution: Is your workplace prepared?