Last month, I bought a Samsung Gear 2 Neo smartwatch. It’s been on my wrist every day over the past few weeks, replacing my usual traditional watch that tells the time and shows me the date.

Of course, a digital smartwatch can do a lot more than just that, one of the reasons why people buy them. Read more

First, they were persecuted. Then, they were addicted.

Yes, it appears that full-blown dependency is the next great tribulation of the Google Glass superuser. We now have a reported case of Google Glass addiction in the books. Read more

The Federal Aviation Administration is poised to approve exemptions for seven aerial photo and video production companies, allowing them to lawfully operate their unmanned aircraft systems for the purposes of filming movies and television shows. Read more

EndlessJabber is a new Android app, which enables users to send and receive SMS/MMS messages from any PC, tablet, web browser or XMPP client. The folks behind it are currently raising funds through KickStarter. Read more

Earlier this week, news came out that Google is looking at catering to a whole new market – kids under thirteen years old. Read more

Business Secretary Vince Cable and the UK Department for Transport have just announced a “fast track” initiative for driverless cars, saying that the autonomous vehicles will hit public roads in about six months. Read more

In finally, that happened news, Facebook has released a dedicated iPad version of their Facebook Messenger app.

The iPad version comes with most of the functionality of the iPhone app, allowing users to send messages, create group chats, employ Facebook’s army of neat little stickers, and of course, VoIP calling – which the company rolled out in January of 2013. Read more

The smart thermostat business has held promise for quite a while now, with even companies such as Google investing heavily in the technology. Now one of the most popular thermostat makers in the world has entered its own smart thermostat into the running.

Honeywell has announced its new Lyric thermostat, a smart thermostat with programmable capabilities. The device is being marketed as a way for consumers to save money and more accurately control the climate of their homes. Read more

A quick search on Google for the term “wearable technology” will produce some 162,000 results, about what you might expect for two very broad key words on such a topic.

The focus of course is very much a consumer one, where there is plenty to find about products like Google Glass, fitness bands, smartwatches, wearable cameras, healthcare devices… the range and scale of products is almost breath-taking.

In the US, online retailer Amazon just launched the Wearable Technology Store, offering consumers all of the above and more.

Amongst all the consumer and media excitement such products generate, I find my focus shifting more and more to the utility aspect of these shiny new objects as they come into the business realm and, inevitably, into our workplaces.

Where such technology gets interesting in this context is precisely that – the context in business.

Shel Israel and Robert Scoble zero in on context in their best-selling book, Age of Context, published last year that speaks of five technology forces that will have a profound effect on individuals, businesses and society as a whole in the next decade – social media, mobile, data, sensors and location-based technology. I see ‘sensors’ equating to ‘wearables’ to a huge extent.

This week, the BBC reports on an academic study that addresses wearable tech in the workplace. Among its positive findings – wearable devices designed to help improve posture and concentration could boost productivity by eight percent in an office.

So we can already see some of those effects Israel and Scoble talk about through the devices we’re becoming more familiar with, such as the examples above, and how and where we use them. And I believe we will see more – and faster – acceptance and adoption in business of wearable tech when multiple tipping points converge:

  1. New or evolved devices come to market that match more closely what people wish to use in a business context.
  2. The functionality of a given device offers the user an easier, simpler, faster, more effective, more convenient and/or cheaper way to get something done or gain access to valuable and useful content.
  3. Above all, a device offers its wearer (a deliberately-chosen word: not ‘user’) a compelling experience that satisfies singular or multiple desires that form a key part of the overall experience.

Om Malik‘s description of wearable tech as “intimate computing” could be close to the mark. And that does make ‘wearer’ a far more apt choice of word than ‘user’ whatever the context, business or otherwise.

It will make you think of ‘wearable’ in a new way. For instance, if you drive a new car a lot – especially a car crammed with tech – is it just a car, or an intimate computing device aka wearable technology?

Which brings me to good old ERP, the backbone of many businesses – and the last place you’d expect to see cool tech such as this in use, right?

Wrong! Just as the cool tech of only four years ago – iPads, iPhones, the emerging smartphone landscape, and an embryonic mobile-device ecosystem that’s today hugely focused on apps – was unlikely to be seen in the corporate workplace or the factory floor, now you can’t move for tablets and other devices of all shapes and sizes, connected to networks – private and public, wired and wireless – and used universally and ubiquitously for business in ways we wouldn’t have imagined at that time.

So the idea of a smartwatch that lets you engage with content from your enterprise systems to not only read messages but also actually make transactions is one whose time is almost upon us.

IFS on Gear 2

Take  a look at what IFS Labs has developed – IFS’ business applications that run on a new Samsung Gear 2 smartwatch:

The fully working proof-of-concept demonstrates how notifications from IFS’s business applications can be delivered to wearable technology. Using Samsung’s APIs for notification alerts, IFS connected components of its Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) systems to send alerts in line with updates to certain processes.

For example, field service operatives could be alerted when important items are shipped, key projects are started or completed, or be notified when invoices are paid.

This is just the tip of an iceberg and you can expect to read, see and hear reports, opinions and other content about this topic in the coming weeks.

Powerful context.

Comments

At least 2 billion of planet earth’s inhabitants live in two worlds; the three dimensional offline world of things that we can see, hear, touch, smell, and taste; and the online world, represented in two dimensions on the always-too-small screens of our desktops, laptops, tablets, and smart phones.

You and I thrash back and forth between these two worlds, trying desperately to integrate one into the other. Google Glass is the first step in the amalgamation of offline and online. More than blur the distinction between the two, it attempts to eliminate it. I know, that’s a bit hyperbolic, especially if you have not yet tried Glass, but only if you limit your imagination by what you have already experienced rather than extend it to catch a glimpse of the future.

The problem of course is that the future never comes fully formed. It is always disguised in a clumsy package that doesn’t comfortably fit the behaviors we are accustomed to. That’s just as true of Glass as it is of the long line of disruptive innovations preceding it. It’s human nature to place “new” technologies into old behaviors. When the first Walkman was introduced the notion of walking around with tiny headphones in public places made little sense – it seemed weird and antisocial. And so it goes with every new technology. We discount its impact by failing to grasp the magnitude with which our behaviors can change. Ultimately it is the dramatic change in behavior that shapes the future most, the technology is just a catalyst. Glass, as it stands now, is not ready to take on that challenge of seamlessly merging these two world together, at least not in more than a modest way. It only took me a few minutes wearing Glass to appreciate that the distinction between the two is an artificial one that needs to be addressed and that the technology to do that it is already here.

It’s not that difficult to fast forward our behaviors to a time when some form of Glass will fully eliminate any distinction between offline and online. This Glass is something you don’t have to use it all the time, it is there when you need it. It’s fully integrated with your daily life, activity, and routine. Glass may not be the best device you’ve ever held in your hands. But for sure it is the most promising one. While the basic Glass applications of taking pictures and video have been well-publicized, the ability to dictate an email, make a call, surf the web, search, and get directions through glass are well developed and easy to use. Τhe Glass is not just another device connected on the web. It is a device able to understand logical questions. It is impressive to realize that Glass is a device able to talk to your senses, to interact with your world and be a part of you, not the world you live in. Glass is, in my opinion at least, the best glimpse into what future brings to us.

The most important thing to realize is that we are already living in an era when the way things and devices are connected profoundly influences and affects our lives. To get connected or “go online” does not require an extra step in our daily life; being online is our life! Mark Zuckerberg once said that babies are no longer raised with bytes but they are born into bytes. We see this everywhere. Think about the simple fact that while our relationship with time is tighter than ever, almost no one wears a watch – at least no one under the age of 20! Of even greater significance is the degree to which we are giving up information about ourselves without any real understanding of the value or consequences. Privacy, for all practical purposes, is gone. We are keen to give our location in order to receive the most accurate weather or traffic forecast. Crowdsourcing apps, such as foursquare or waze, make sharing information and private data a no-thought-required action. At the same time, devices like the nest® intelligent thermostat record when we are not at home while we publicize to the word through social networks where we are – and our smart phones tag us like wildlife.

Connectivity seems to require disclosure. This is something most of us, especially those who are younger, have no problem with as long as we are able to enjoy something which makes our life just a little better. You may shudder at this but it is something I see daily in my classmates. Like it or not the experience of and the expectations for privacy has changed. The kids who today run around with not just devices but a culture of 24/7 connection, localization, and complete transparency of their behaviors are the same ones who will be legislating tomorrow’s society. This is not the Internet of “egocasting” where we could build online personas of what we would have liked to have been, rather it is an Internet of who we really are. Today’s Internet culture is clearly in conflict. We love to grab other people’s attention but we don’t like our future employers looking at our Facebook pages or Twitter accounts. We work hard to make people like or admire our lifestyle but do not wish to have this become a piece of the puzzle of our lives. It seems awkward having a tracking device with us during our personal time– while we’re running or working out, for example–but this drives to better behaviors and products, much closer to our individual needs and expectations than even we can ourselves define.

We have two billion people on the planet living in two worlds. There are still five billion who live in only one. The two billion are the most prosperous, protected, and privileged. Might bridging the economic and social divide that separates these two worlds create something much greater than anything we can possibly imagine? Internet.org works towards that direction to bring another billion of people online. In its current form Glass offers barely a glimpse into this new hyperconnected reality. Still it causes the imagination to wonder what the world will look like when the barriers between our two worlds are finally taken down; not just for the two billion but for the other five billion as well.

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      HiTech Edge covers all the latest advances in the world of technology. If it's HiTech news, it's HiTech Edge.


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