With Apple only a few months away from releasing their highly anticipated (late out of the gate) smart watch, it got us thinking, if smart phones could revolutionise workforce management software, could smart watches do the same?;
If you're not a techy kind of person you may have never heard of a smart watch, let me explain. A smart watch is a wearable piece of tech that serves the basic function of being a watch while being and doing so much more. With the ability to be synched to your smart phone, the smart watch can essentially do pretty much everything that your smart phone can do, you can take photos, access the internet, make/receive phone calls, listen to music, text etc, basically a computer strapped to your wrist.
Like most Apple products, it will no doubt have an abundance of loyal fans queuing up to buy the smart watch. However, Apple are late to the game, with competitors already getting a key footing in the wearable tech market, for example Samsung (Apple's main competitors) released their "Gear" in 2013, not only this but other companies such as Sony, Pebble, LG, Motorola, Martian etc all have smart watches out that are very intelligent pieces of tech. However, unless you are a techy kind of person, you won't have been paying much attention, the Apple watch is bound to bring some significant attention to the wearable tech market.
This makes us wonder, if smart watches gain the notoriety and popularity for people in their personal life, could they gain any traction for businesses in the field? If you want the short answer, here it is, yes! If you want the longer answer, keep reading!
Good you kept reading. The longer answer is a little more complicated, in theory they have potential for staff in the field (which I will delve into in a minute) but they also have a few hurdles that businesses may get hung up about. Let's start with the positives!
Real time updates, real quick!
The main advantage that jumps out at you is that your field staff can get updates in real time. You may argue that this is the same as having a smart phone. You'd be right to argue this, however a smart phone can be put on silent or if busy not felt/heard in your pocket. If the update is flashing, vibrating, ringing on your wrist it is hard to ignore and you can respond quicker than you could with a smart phone.
Convenience is a massive deal in people's lives, we want to be able to do things quicker and easier and if there are innovations that do that we snap them up! This is what the smart watch gives you, convenience, you don't have to hold the watch, if it's on your wrist you can see it while working on other things. You don't have to keep delving into your pocket every 5 seconds to pull out your phone to check something, you don't have to hold it to read information while working etc. This has implications for not only convenience, but health and safety and a reduction in lost/broken phones due to accidents while working, ultimately saving you money.
Those are the main advantages that I can think of; the disadvantages are what's going to turn off businesses to the idea of smart watches.
Cost is the major obstacle businesses are going to have a problem getting over. Smart phones are cheaper to buy, with typical (decent) android smart phones costing between £100 and £150. Brand leading smart watches cost between £150-£200, that's not taking into account the Apple watch which is rumoured to cost around £220 (unless your company is Apple, I can't see any company buying their employees the iWatch). This isn't the only cost that a company would have to take into account, the majority of smart watches have to be paired with smart phones, so a company would have to buy the smart phone as well, bringing costing, at the cheapest to around £300 a member of staff. If you were to buy a member of staff the Apple alternative, for arguments sake (the iWatch can only be paired with the iphone 6/6plus), it would cost you roughly £820 per member of staff, a silly amount of money! As it stands, with prices the way they are, I cannot see any business buying their field staff both, smart phones do a good enough job on their own and smart watches don't really add any stand out functionality.
Hard to use
Have you ever used a smart watch? If you haven't, imagine using your smart phone with a 1/3 of the screen size, it's quite hard to use effectively. Imagine texting, writing information down, even reading job details etc. I can imagine many staff members getting annoyed with the fiddly screens and pulling out their phones anyway, which means all the advantages of having a smart watch fly out the window along with the money you spent on it!
Our own smart watch development
We decided to experiment by developing workforce management software specifically for smart watches. We've had the pebble steel for a few months now and it's a clever piece of tech, it's simple and doesn't over complicate things, with apps that are easy to use and very functional. They currently retail at around £99-£180 in the UK depending on the spec you want, so they are significantly cheaper than most android competitors on the market at the moment (and significantly cheaper than the apple watch when it's released). The downside is that they are very basic, if we were to provide an extension to our Motivity software, it would most likely be for engineers to view alerts about new jobs and to also acknowledge and start them. However they would still need their phones towards the end of the job to complete what they have done on site in more details (as well as taking pictures, signatures etc).
To summarise, I don't see companies jumping to adopt smart watches to manage their field staff, smart watches are a cool idea and one we've dreamed about since watching the old sci-fi movies as kids, but once the novelty wears off will they just be what they are, a very expensive watch. For companies to adopt them and see a return on their investment, the price would have to be significantly lower, they would have to offer more and would have to be easier to use. For now, smart phones are a significantly cheaper and practical option for workforce management software. But who knows, the same was said about tablet's and look how commonplace they have become for staff, it's a wait and see moment, but in our opinion it's one to be considered for the future.