There's a movement taking place, and it's focused on wearables and their use in the enterprise. More than 93% of companies participating in a recent APX Labs survey reported that they are evaluating wearable technology, and 87% believe that it will have a significant impact across their industry within the next five years.
"The invisible revolution that is underway is bigger than we thought it was," said Brian Ballard, CEO and co-founder of APX Labs, the developer of the Skylight platform for enterprise wearable technology.
The purpose of the survey was to see who is using or evaluating wearables, and what they are interested in. Wearable technology is growing, with Gartner reporting smart glasses will result in $1 billion annual cost savings in the field services industry alone, and IMS Research estimating the wearable technology marketplace will grow to $6 billion by 2016.
The study, The State of Enterprise Wearable Adoption, focused on the IT or business decision makers in 201 companies with 500 to more than 5,000 employees, and from a range of industries. The industrial enterprise sector was the focus of the study, with government, non-profit, education, professional services, media, hospitality, health care and financial services industries excluded since those areas do not have a direct use for wearables relevant to the study.
The 93% of companies interested in wearables are split across almost every industry included, with manufacturing and life sciences "very big" and transportation and retail smaller than anticipated, Ballard said.
"Manufacturing was an obvious one for us because that's where we see most of our inbound traffic coming from," he said.
Smartwatches were being used by 61% of companies and 42% were using smart glasses. And 32% of companies were using both.
"If you break it down to how people are looking from the business perspective, we surveyed based on where they were looking to solve the business problem and how many people would be affected. We found the impact that wearable technology would bring," Ballard said.
The impact included speeding up tasks and improving safety, which have a "very big bottom line effect," he said.
Inspection quality assurance was one of the most common use cases with 49% of respondents reporting that as a use factor, and 48% were using it for manufacturing assembly.
"One of the trends that we found is that the education level of the user has really increased from last year to this year. People know what they're getting into going forward and there's an increase in smart wearables and a decrease in wearables such as activity trackers," he said.
There is an HR value to activity trackers, but it doesn't translate to as much value for the enterprise.
Many companies are also working on pilot projects involving wearables. "There are a dozen different automotive ones we know of. Almost every oil and gas company now has a pilot going on. With 93% evaluating, it's going to get harder to find people who aren't evaluating wearables," he said.
And 86% of respondents are evaluating more than one scenario. "That's one of the most encouraging statistics we saw. A multi-device, multi-scenario workforce," he said.
"Most of the real value around it is that people are being issued this at work. They're being asked to profile the device. Compute the ROI. Inform the company about how they can maximize the value of this new technology as a tool," Ballard said.
The survey was conducted by an independent market research firm in June 2015, with 201 respondents. Based on a confidence interval of 95%, the margin of sampling error for the 201 respondents is +/- 7.1 percentage points.
Teena Maddox is a Senior Writer at TechRepublic, covering hardware devices, IoT, smart cities and wearables. She ties together the style and substance of tech. Teena has spent 20-plus years writing business and features for publications including People, W and Women's Wear Daily.