The Wearable Tech Trend and Its Impact on Companies and Employees

Mason Stevenson
Posted: 10/02/2017

FitBits. Apple Watches. Some other brand of smartwatch. No doubt you’re sporting one of these devices right now. You’re not alone. A large proportion of your co-workers are doing exactly the same thing.

An eMarketer study forecasts 81.7 million adults will be using some form of wearable tech in 2018. That number is expected to grow again in 2019, up to 86.7 million. HR Professionals want that number to keep going up. In fact, they’re hoping to save some money in the process.

Driving Up the Numbers

As the work force changes, we’ll see more and more recruits coming in to the work place wearing technology. In fact, eMarketer’s study indicates wearables are most popular among U.S. adults between the ages of 25 and 44. The trend seems to indicate that number will grow in 2018 and again in 2019.

Employee with wearable office tech

That group isn’t the only one showing a trend toward more wearable tech use either. All adult age groups are moving that direction, but clearly, the trends are being driven mostly by the younger generations of workers.

Use in the Workplace

Technology has been disrupting Human Resources for several years now and there’s no end in sight. It makes sense wearable technology will follow suit.

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In a recent HR Exchange Network survey, we asked respondents what action their company has taken to demonstrably move the needle in reducing healthcare costs. Respondents were given several options, including “Other.” Some choosing that option reported their companies had begun to invest in and implement wellness programs.

While it’s unclear if companies making that decision haven been or will include wearable technology as part of the equation remains to be seen.

Wearable Technology in Practice

Wearable technology is already in the workplace and in a big way for employees of Three Square Market. In July of 2017, President and Chief Operating Officer Patrick McMullan offered his employees an opportunity to make history and have biochips implanted in their hands. The company is the first in the U.S. to make the offer.

50 of the company’s 80 employees agreed to the procedure, and in early August, those employees were implanted with the $300 chip, placed between their thumb and forefinger. The chip’s size: no larger than a rice grain.

McMullan said they’ve already perfected some uses for the implants including:

  • Opening doors
  • Duel authentication of computer and network log in
  • Payment
  • Fitness room log in and wellness program interface
  • Identification
  • Controlled access
  • Asset management
  • Attendance.

It almost sounds farfetched that form of technology is already available to employees. For some, it raises some serious concerns with its application. McMullan said, “Privacy, far away, is number one. Conflicts with religion are number two. These are 98% of the concerns.”

There are also concerns wearable technology blurs the line between employees’ personal lives and their professional lives. “It has been that way since the onset of social media,” McMullan explained. “If an employee believes this is gray, they should turn off their email, ditch their phone, and remove any contacts that are work-related from social media.”

Attributes of Wearable Technology

Despite the concerns, Three Square Market is moving forward. McMullan notes the benefits of the technology allows for increased efficiency, certainty, security, and convenience.

When thinking about the first two, McMullan said they’re currently testing an attendance function with clients. It “ensures that they [employees] are where they are supposed to be and performing the task that they should be,” McMullan explained.

Of course, safety hasn’t been ignored.

“We have a GPS function coming out that, in the event of emergency, employees would be able to scan their wearable that would notify emergency personnel of their exact location,” McMullan said. “Whether it be fire, natural disaster, even an active shooter, this patent pending feature will change how first responders can account for people.“

In terms of convenience, “the implant means you never lost it,” McMullan said. It does come with a downside. While the risk is low, McMullan said the only medical issue with the implant would be the necessity to replace it for some reason. McMullan’s company does offer a wearable version of the biochip meaning there wearer can remove it if need be.

The Wearable Technology Landscape

One thing is for certain, the landscape where wearable technology is concerning is changing and will continue to do so.

At this point, McMullan says most people simply do not understand what this technology is, and he spends a large amount of his time defining what it is not.

But that’s not keeping companies from holding back.

“I expect the landscape to change dramatically in the next year. The term smart office, smart city, smart campus, etc., will be trending words and phrases in 2018,” McMullan said. “I expect that you will see clients coming from everywhere near and far. What will draw them? Efficiency, certainty, security, convenience.”

Patrick McMullan is the President and Chief Operating Officer of Three Square Market.

Mason Stevenson
Posted: 10/02/2017

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