Enterprise implications of wearable technology

A universe of possibilities, seen on the daily commute to Silicon Valley.

The following insights were contributed by Jay Manciocchi, director of content marketing at SaaS Markets:

Jay Manciocchi-SaaS Markets-HEAD SHOT

Remember when the Star Trek crews simply spoke through their communicator badges to communicate via the clouds to the Enterprise—a starship exploring the outer limits of the galaxy?

Now, you may start to see cloud-based devices — such as Samsung's soon-to-be-unvieled Galaxy Gear and Apple's impending iWatch — being designed with enterprise (lower-case "e") computing needs in mind, and within a few years you can expect many of your co-workers to be wearing one. At least, that is what device designers are hoping for.

Each day, I take the commuter rail to work from San Francisco to Silicon Valley, and sit next to Google and Apple engineers who often have exciting new toys in their backpacks—whether it’s a pair of Google Glasses, or a prototype of the iWatch. Sometimes, I even get to demo these devices during my commute.  

The dawn of devices such as Galaxy Gear and iWatch speaks to a larger cloud computing trend that is about to take enterprise computing by storm—wearable, SaaS-based technology. There is a reason why the very best venture capital firms on Sand Hill Road are pouring money into this trend. Ideas that make good business sense tend to do well.  

But, could large corporations truly benefit from their employees use of cloud-based, business apps on the iWatch? Before you consider that question, ask yourself: “how many millions of dollars have enterprises spent on iPads and other tablets, so their employees can use them in the regular course of business?”  Whether it’s a sales rep using a CRM like Salesforce.com on his or her iPad, or a pilot using cloud-based navigation software on a tablet— mobile products have become common in the workplace. Could the smartwatch become ubiquitous in corporate realm, too?

My prediction:  you can expect that vendors such as Apple and Samsung will invite and encourage SaaS app developers to modify their business applications for use on smartwatches, just as they are redeveloping them for Google Glass via the Google Mirror API. The Mirror API enables third-party apps to integrate with the new Google Glass technology, and already dozens of business software providers, such as Evernote, are providing examples of what is possible.

In addition, in the case of the iWatch, it will have the same, or similar, functionality as an iPhone — with a camera and voice commands — and one day there will be thousands of business apps available as well.  Picture it: you’re sitting in an office in Manhattan, you take photos of a document they need in Beijing, you dictate an accompanying Gmail message into your iWatch, and then you send both from your wrist.  Before long, you might just find yourself saying:  “Beam me up, Scottie!” (or Geordi).

Before you start channeling your inner Spock, don't get too excited. It's going to take time for smartphones to make their way into the market. Nonetheless, this hasn’t stopped designers from producing preliminary concept designs to enhance the aesthetic qualities of the iWatch prototype. 

iWatch-Apple-photo by Ciccarese Design
Photo: Ciccarese Design

The photo at the left shows a recent design from Federico Ciccarese, a designer who has developed some great Apple device concepts in the past.

Samsung is set to announce its smartwatch on September 4th. That piece of wearable technology will be called Galaxy Gear and it will work directly with Samsung phones. Apple's iWatch is likely to be unvieled later in the year.

That’s right, Enterprise—Gene Roddenberry envisioned the enterprise computing benefits of wearable technology decades ago.  As Mr. Spock used to say, it’s truly “fascinating.”