The Apple watch is now available since a few month. And although you only see a few of them in real life, Apple seems to be successfully started with a few million pieces sold and with holding already a significant share of the wearables market. But overall the smartwatch and wearables market is still very small. The first versions of these watches seem to be very useful already for reading notifications and messages without taking the phone out of your pocket or for tracking your pulse and daily activities. But the real “killer application” is still missing.
Today the idea of the quantified self as a trend to measure your body activities in an extensive way is mainly applied in the area of sports and health. You measure the blood pressure, the heart rate, the movement and activities, collect and store the data and analyse and use it for a better performance or healthier life. This is an important field and is already widely accepted in the society.
But we believe, that a “killer application” for wearables might be found in the near future not in the personal area, but in the business life: Since decades, we do research on social behaviour, mainly on observation and surveys. But now since a few years with better sensors and algorithms, we can track full data on behaviour and analyse this data. And with the growing knowledge about networks from network theory, we can understand much better how we think, behave and interact.
Having this said, one can imagine, what wearables can do in the world of business with their capabilities of sensors and discrete visualisation of messages and notifications combined with the power of a liked phone and the link to the internet. Leaving all discussion of personal privacy and legal challenges of observations by the employers aside, here some areas of application:
- Personal resilience and personal burnout-prevention: Wearables can track the personal activity and stress level at work, giving the employees feedback on the current situation. This allows them to slow down or take a break and reduce the risks of burn-outs and stress levels. Sharing this information with the company an employer can do a much more differentiated contracting with the workforce for the benefit of both sides (if applied ethically correct). Instead of giving the company a specific amount of time, for a specific amount of money, the contracting can be done more individually based on a specific amount of activity, a individual and healthy performance level as the individual situation is considered automatically.
- Individual behaviour feedback: The wearable can measure not just personal body data, but also the interaction with the environment, like how often and with whom I am interacting. Collecting and analysing this data might help to improve and change the personal behaviour based on personal objectives. My watch can remind me on getting in touch with my team or specific experts more often, like the Apple watch now reminding my on standing up every hour for a minute for improving my personal health.
- Meeting and team interaction: One step further, the wearable can track my personal involvement and interaction in meetings, measuring the stress level of myself and the other participants by analysing body data, voice tonality and other indicators. We know from research that specific communication patterns in meetings are an indicator for a good and productive meeting or a bad and less productive meeting. The match might measure and give some instant feedback on the current situation with suggestions for improvement. Based on the current technology of the Apple watch as an example, this could be done with some predefined and invisible tapping codes, produced by Apples taptic, tapping on the wrist.
These three examples give a good idea on what is already theoretically possible today. From our perspective it is just a question of time until these ideas are applied to practice. Especially when significant efficiency improvements can be proven by applying those technologies in areas of a company where no physical work, but knowledge work is done, we will see some of these ideas in the next generation of modern companies.
I am looking forward to some comments, discussions and further ideas on this topic here on the blog.