Marketing content shared with Michigan Business Network by:
Bonnie J. Knutson, PhD
The School of Hospitality Business
Broad College of Business
Michigan State University
A little more than 90 years ago, (October 14, 1931, to be exact), the Dick Tracy comic strip made its debut in the Detroit Mirror. Fifteen years later, this tough, smart detective, created by Chester Gould, first used the iconic 2-way wrist radio. And in 1964, the radio was “upgraded” to a 2-way TV. Today, Dick’s iconic wrist radio has morphed into the Apple Watch, Fitbit, and even Body Cameras. Welcome to the world of wearables.
Before going into how this exploding technology might be used in the operational side of your club, it helps to understand exactly what wearable technology (WT) is. Simply put, WT is a term that encompasses all electronics that can be worn on the body. It can be an accessory, such as a smartwatch, or it can be a sensor embedded into clothing that can tract motion, time, and even location.
The key benefit of wearable technology is that it connects to the Internet so that the information collected can be sent to a network, stored, exchanged, analyzed, and acted upon. This capability is what is pushing wearable technology to the forefront of what is being called the Internet of Things (IoT). It is estimated that, in 2022, about 18 billion connected devices will be related to IoT. This number is projected to rise to 30.9 billion by 2025 – a short three years from now. Enabled by 5G, companies will be able into new markets and build new revenue streams with innovate models and use cases.
While this trend may sound scary to some, especially considering the 2018 Cambridge Analytica issues, businesses are finding that IoT is offering them new insights into how to increase efficiency, how to better engage employees and customers, and how to develop new revenue stream opportunities. Can your company be far behind?
While WT is less of a novelty today and is becoming increasingly integrated into our daily lives, it is still in the early adopter stage for many – both personally and professionally.
Like any new development, there are always pros and cons for adoption. So first, a look at what could be some pros for your club.
Ø Biometric data can help design work environments for better employee wellbeing. For example, a company in Britain used armbands, automatically tracking employees’ movements during several tasks to identify completion time, process, and fatigue. From the data, they were able to recognize when employees were most alert and productive, allowing them to design new procedures and processes as well as more flexible work schedules. In fact, one study found that WT can boost employee productivity 8.5% and job satisfaction 3.5%. Many in the IoT field believe that the initial drivers for adopting WT will be health and wellbeing. Given longevity trends and the skyrocketing cost of health insurance, they are probably right. Sounds like a win-win, to me.
It stands to reason that some employees may not want to wear some type of a wrist or arm band, nor would these types of sensors be practical for some tasks or duties. For such cases, sensors can be integrated into uniforms or other clothing to give you the data you need or want. The value of this type of WT is that it can provide you with real-time monitoring of such things as heart rate, caloric output, steps, and location. This smart clothing revolution is being led by such brands as Samsung, Under Armour, and Hexo Skin for the fitness industry. The goal, of course, it to make the “sensors on your back as smart and the phone in your pocket.” LifeBeam jumped on the WT bandwagon, too, by embedding sensors into safety helmets, visors, and caps.
Ø Cognitive data can give management insights into when employees are most creative and/or productive. EEG sensors are already embedded into headbands and hats to detect intellectual patterns. Think about how this type of data could help you schedule complicated or complex tasks. Think about how it could help schedule/structure strategic planning retreats. (I’m sure this notion is fostering an “interesting” image your management team wearing colorful head gear during their next meeting, too.)
Ø Virtual Reality headsets and smart glasses may eliminate the need for desktop monitors in offices and homes. This WT aspect is surely in the future, but we already see it making inroads in the gaming industry. How far away will your office be?
While the whole conversation about WT may sound very George Jenson-like, the two big elephants in the room are, of course, privacy and cost. We can expect that many employees will
have strong objections to their “personal” data being collected, stored, and analyzed. There will also be concerns about management being able to track their movements, location, and biometrics. And we cannot forget hacking. But like any new technology, eventually, it gets integrated into our routines and it just becomes part of our daily lives. I remember when my husband thought a smartphone was stupid until he found out that he could download apps that would show him the layout, yardage, and slope rating of virtually every golf course. That was the moment that the benefits out weighted any reluctance. It will probably be the same for WT.
For every organization, decisions about adopting any new technology will be based, in part, by cost. Here again, as WT becomes more common and accepted, costs will come down. All we need to do is look at flat-screen TVs to see that truism in action. But cost also has a human dimension, called human capital. Dr. Chris Brauer, director of innovation at the Institute of Management Studies rightly points out that, “Wearable tech will offer the critical missing piece of the big data puzzle that is data about human capital...[it] will provide a rejuvenated form of ‘management’ science, optimizing workplace productivities and performance through everyday integration of these devices and sensors into the workplace.” I agree.
So move over, Dick Tracy. Here comes the club industry!
Your bottom line will thank you!