Wearables: Coming to an Enterprise Near You

It might be tempting to ignore wearables as some kind of geek fad.

But businesses can’t risk ignoring how wearable technology is disrupting industries.

On its own, Google Glass may not have generated the same mass consumer adoption that triggered corporate IT to accommodate BYOD or social media use. But Apple’s recent partnership with IBM lays the foundation for a massive influx of new end user devices that offer exciting new ways of performing workday tasks.

How so?

Both companies respective market share provides the other with new in-roads – IBM capitalizing on BYOD and Apple getting a bigger enterprise play. The deal may have come at exactly the right time to cause a wearables explosion among businesses.

Apparently, Google thinks this is a viable growth strategy and announced a similar initiative to partner with startups to integrate Google Glass into operating models. Both manufactuerers are looking to accelerate wearable adoption in corporate America, pushing communication and collaboration to new boundaries. And they’ve got the right idea. We are in the throws of a digital transformation that is changing customer demands; wearables offer a better way to meet those demands.

There are many compelling applications for wearable devices that have the potential to touch every industry but I see particularly compelling cases for wearables in the contact center and in collaboration environments. As technology advances, wearables will predictably become an interesting communication tool.

The basic function of any multichannel contact center is the ability to quickly and intelligently route data to the best person or people available to take action. Without the ability to route wearables-produced data somewhere for processing or to an expert to take action, wearables would be nothing more than disconnected toys. With intelligent routing, the practical business applications of wearables are seemingly endless.

Customer facing, wearables provide a new way for consumers to interface with service representatives meeting customers on their terms. This can lead to increased customer loyalty and the potential for new customer adoption.

From a business stand point it leads to greater efficiency. Take financial services, by integrating a video strategy possibly enabled by Google Glass, banks can cut costs though centralizing and reducing customer service staff (especially in low-traffic regions) to call center locations where they can take inquiries from customers across the nation through either an app or a video-enabled ATM. This can lead to another benefit: extended service hours.

Employee facing, wearables can help with everyday tasks. For example, a headset that takes biometric readings could alert a contact center supervisor to listen in on a call when a customer service representative’s blood pressure and pulse suddenly increase. A

wristband with an RFID chip might automatically log an agent out of a workstation when he or she leaves their desk for lunch, avoiding incoming calls to an agent’s empty desk. Problematic situations can be more easily identified and quickly resolved. These applications can lead to real savings, greater efficiency and a better experience for the customer. And they are just the beginning.

Like any technology, it has to work nearly effortlessly in order to be truly useful. Lack of a solid, supporting infrastructure will severely limit the benefits of wearables, something the Apple-IBM partnership seems to solve. In that regard, wearables are no different than other collaboration technologies that have come before, such as email, voice conferencing or video conferencing. These technologies required solid investment in order to make them viable business tools. A flexible, secure infrastructure provides the freedom to create new business and applications that manifest through the user’s wearable device.

So the question is: Are you going to help build the future or just watch it happen from your mobile device? The window of opportunity for companies to help usher in new models and devices for competitive advantage has cracked open. Miss it at your own risk.