Wearables in the Workplace – Sean Kelly

Wearable technology is becoming more and more common these days as numerous fitness, lifestyle, and smartphone manufacturing companies try to claim their piece of a potentially lucrative market. These devices run the gamut from fitness-oriented devices such as the Fitbit, to watch replacements such as the Pebble or the Apple Watch. Despite the sudden interest in controlling the technology strapped to your wrist, the value that these devices provide to consumers is still the subject of frequent debate. Personally, I’ve been interested in how these devices will improve efficiency in a work setting. I’ve been wearing an Apple Watch at F12 for the past month and a half, and so I have a pretty good feel for their value as both a personal and professional watch replacement.

We’ll start with the good! In my experience so far, the best use of wearable technology is to assist with maintaining a reasonable work-life balance, rather than directly assisting with work functions themselves. One feature I didn’t really expect, and that I’ve taken the greatest advantage of, is the ability to filter notifications from my phone. Many people these days experience that feeling of always being tied to the job, because it can always find you on your cell phone via e-mails or calls. With wearables, you can select what types of notifications appear on your smartwatch, which allows you to remain connected to friends and family without work-related interruptions. Or, you can go in the completely opposite direction, and tailor those notifications specifically for your work, making the device more about keeping up to date on your e-mails and meetings. These devices are also great for giving you feedback on your activity level throughout the day, which is particularly important if you have a highly sedentary job. Finally, smartwatches can also be used to provide more direct reminders about meetings or appointments, as it’s more difficult to ignore something buzzing on your wrist than it is to ignore something buzzing in your pocket.

Now, we need to discuss the negatives of these products. One of the primary criticisms levelled against wearable technology is that their main selling features are little more than gimmicks. In general, a smartwatch will require a smartphone, which will fulfill many, if not all, of the same functions. In my experience, this certainly seems to be the case. For the most part, everything that you can do by looking at your wrist could instead be done by pulling out your phone. Glancing at your watch every few seconds is just as socially unacceptable as pulling out your phone, as many reviews of the Apple Watch and similar products have already pointed out. A wearable is also another device which potentially rings or otherwise makes noise during a business meeting or conversation, which too can be seen as rude. Lastly, application support is still on the weaker side, as developers still search for ways to harness the new devices’ strengths.

So, what’s the verdict? I think it’s fairly obvious that after over a month of use, I still have some pretty big question marks regarding the use of wearable technology. While I’ve been enjoying having the device, I also wouldn’t recommend them to others just yet. As with many new technology trends, it can often be a better choice to wait for the second or third generation of the product to take advantage of lessons learned from early adopters, and it seems that this is completely true for the Smartwatch as well.

 

Sean Kelly
Project Coordinator

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