“There’s a strong belief that wearable technology will take off in the workplace before the home because devices such as smart watches, intelligent ID badges, and fitness and health monitors can provide organizations with uncharted data collection points to greatly improve safety, productivity, collaboration, and overall workplace effectiveness.”

— Joyce Maroney, Director, Workforce Institute

Positive sentiment for wearable technologies is up in the fastest-growing places on Earth, and not from the sectors you might expect.

Though only 48% of American adults see a workplace benefit for wearable technologies, 96%, 94%, and 91% of respondents in Mexico, China, and India respectively see the value of wearables at work. Add the fact that 71% of 16-24 year olds are interested in wearable tech and you’ve got a recipe for growth.

Doubting the value of wearable technologies is bizarre to me. I just don’t get it. Wearable technologies have been around forever. The first tools used to scrape animal hides for clothing date back about 780,000 years, and a skin that keeps burning sun off your back is a wearable technology. Inuit people have been using slitted bone and birch bark to prevent snow blindness since prehistory. Not to mention wrist watches and headphones, the most overlooked wearable technologies ever.


A very, very early wearable. Photo credit: Julian Idrobo via Wikimedia Commons.

All of these technologies have two things in common: they arose from necessity and helped people get more done.

That quote up top, from Director of the Workforce Institute at Kronos, comes from last week’s Fortune article about the value of wearables at work. The article argues that, just as we saw with the personal computer, wearable technologies will start as workplace productivity tools and expand to consumers.

In a way, wearables like the Myo armband are finally bringing the technologies of the office to tradespeople, who were robbed of these tools because they couldn’t sit in front of a desk. Skilled workers are adopting wearable technologies in greater numbers than their white collar counterparts out of necessity: a mobile worker, out in the field with gloves on or dirty hands, has greater need of wearables to improve efficiency and workflow.

Soon, tradespeople will have so much experience with these sophisticated technologies that a gap between blue and white collar workers will arise. People in the knowledge economy will struggle to catch up: the reverse of the phenomenon we saw with personal computing in the late 80s and early 90s. We live in an exciting and disruptive time.

When you add the fact that constant sitting is killing us, and consider that the Myo armband lets a person work on the move whether punching rivets or preparing speaking notes, you’ve got a powerful one-two punch for the future of computing. Soon, we’ll return to using our technologies the way we were meant to: on our bodies, on the move, improving our ability to safely accomplish the tasks of daily life.