Smartwatches in the enterprise: Everything you need to know about this evolving market

Smart watch graphic with functions and apps

Smartwatches have made their mark on the consumer electronics market, but didn’t fully land in business use cases so far. Yet, the latest trends are indicating that the time for higher volume business utilization of enterprise smartwatches is just around the corner.

What challenges persist and must be resolved? What features provide the best value for people and companies? And why is now the right moment to start to look at smartwatch use in your company? To better answer these questions, we’ve created a detailed overview of this rapidly evolving market where you will learn:

  • A brief history of a smartwatch technology and what data shows about current sales and user adoption
  • What features provide the best value for people and how can businesses profit from them
  • What challenges persist
  • How Resco technology supports smartwatch adoption across enterprises
  • Business use cases for smartwatches utilization
  • How can your company start embracing the benefits of the workplace wearables

A brief history of smartwatches

Even though their initial occurrence began in early 2000s, the commercial success of true smartwatches (meaning wristwatches with the ability to connect to the Internet) is still a relatively young phenomenon. Microsoft, IBM, or Fossil were pioneering the market almost 20 years ago. But we can mark 2013 as “the year of smartwatches.”
Pebble smartwatch, enterprise smartwatches
In that time, devices originating from Kickstarter crowdfunding campaigns – Pebble and TrueSmart – started to create a broader public interest in wearable technology. All of this was later backed up by the entry of the big players to the game. Samsung, Motorola, Sony, and Apple with the Apple Watch, established the demand for smartwatches on the consumer market.
More significant money started to flow into the sector, and more manufacturers and users have engaged. However, the young smartwatch market has also already experienced its first crisis. After the first years, it seemed that the technology is not moving forward quickly enough. In 2016, Business Insider even published a story pointing out the struggle of vendors to bring breakthrough features and more value to people. “There is no smartwatch market. There’s just Apple and Fitbit,” BI stated at the end of the article.
Even though the entire sector went through a harsh time in the 2016 – 2017 period, current data shows that tide has turned. In smartwatches’ favor once again.

Sales and user adoption of smartwatches

Reports and analyses from various research authorities show the evolving progress of the smartwatch market in the last couple of years. We see soaring user adoption and increasing sales all around the world. The potential of smartwatches is on the rise, forecasts predict further sales improvements, and enterprises are set to harness the benefits. Here are a few key takeaways from the reports monitoring the smartwatch market:

  • Almost 45 million units of smartwatches were sold worldwide in 2018, up from 29 million in 2017, which means 56% year over year improvement (Strategy Analytics)
  • Global smartwatch shipments grew 42 percent annually to reach 14 million units in the third quarter of 2019 (Strategy Analytics)
  • Smartwatches gain a definite position especially in the U.S. – More than 16% of adults own a smartwatch, including to almost every fourth person in the age of 18 to 34 (NDP Group)
  • An overall number of connected wearable devices is forecasted to more than double in all major regions (including Asia, Europe, Pacific area, and South America) between 2017 and 2022 (Cisco Systems)
  • Watches accounted for 44.2% of the entire wearables market in 2018 and their share is anticipated to grow further, reaching 47.1% in 2023 (IDC)
  • Smartwatches are expected to be a significant part in wearables sales growth with 115 million units sold in 2022 (Gartner)

Data shows that smartwatches recovered from their struggles a few years ago. The market now has established leading vendors, users find more value in their products, and developers have broader possibilities for app development. So, what exactly helped smartwatches to grow and reinforce their position?
Apple Watch smartwatches, enterprise smartwatches

Game-changing features

Always connected user
Industry analyst Weston Hendeker considers adding LTE connectivity a tipping point for the sales we saw in 2018. We’ve also highlighted this feature as one of the key points to check before buying a smartwatch. LTE makes wearables more autonomous by allowing calls, messages, or notifications even without a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection to a phone.
More software independency
Independency of smartwatches seems to drive sales to new heights and will be even more important as smartwatch processing power, storage space, and software support increases. Even the latest version of watchOS allows developers to build completely independent apps. Users can install them directly from the dedicated app store without the need for an iPhone. So, the smartwatch’s umbilical cord to the phone is gradually disappearing.
Interest of developers
Software independence and improving user adoption lure more and more coders to the smartwatch market. This sector becomes increasingly financially attractive with upcoming higher enterprise utilization – even though there are still some challenges lying in this field (we talk about them in the next part of an article).
Breakthrough user benefit
To adopt a technology, people need to see an added value in it. And it seems that smartwatches have just found theirs. Evolving health tracking capabilities with ECG monitoring allowing people to oversee their condition and prevent medical problems. Currently, Apple is pioneering this area. However, Samsung and other manufacturers are catching up fast. Advanced health-tracking features are also the reason why NPD predicts that even older generations will find smartwatches more and more appealing.

Why does it matter for enterprises?

Improving features and sensor utilization further opens the possibilities for their use within the work environment. Companies can monitor employee’s stress level or fatigue and adjust their processes effectively. LTE feature also enables field workers to stay connected and updated in the field.
Increasing user adoption also brings considerable implications for enterprises. People are getting used to smartwatches, different navigation through their OS’, interaction with apps, or data input. They become more common for general audiences, which is an essential step in the overall recognizability of the technology. It creates a broader space for their utilization in a work environment. Companies don’t need to spend big money on workers’ training as they already know the basics.

This will also mean a more straightforward job for developers in terms of interface and overall user experience considerations. The more common smartwatches are, the easier people adjust. Additionally, with fast-growing user adoption, especially in the U.S., the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy may be an exciting option for companies soon – cutting down on both required resources and implementation time.

What challenges persist?

There are some prevalent challenges that manufacturers, developers, businesses, and users face. Today, some of the key concerns are:

Power delivery

The overall battery life of smartwatches is one of the critical challenges prevailing in the market from the beginning. The small form factor of wrist devices doesn’t accommodate much space for individual parts, which also results in a smaller battery. Users, therefore, have to cope with battery life starting from one day and averaging in 3 to 4 days of endurance.

Platform fragmentation

Compared to smartphones, smartwatches don’t yet have as polished of a solution as iOS or Android. Apple, with its watchOS, is essentially the gold standard of the market. But then, there are several challengers, led by Samsung (Tizen), Fitbit, and Wear OS devices, with a highly fragmented market share. Therefore, for developers, it can be challenging to decide whether to support just one platform or spend resources and effort on another as well.

Bear in mind that although Apple Watch has the highest sales, it only accounts for one half of the market. So, a lot of users would still be left behind. Especially in the more affordable devices, with a price tag under $300.

Slower enterprise adoption

Smartwatches yet haven’t reached the predicted potential in professional use. Companies are still evaluating smartwatch utilization in many aspects: Security, future support, implementation cost, ROI, and efficiency are some of them. These concerns slow down overall technology adoption. Therefore, vendors and developers need to focus on helping businesses with their integration.

It’s clear that issues like battery life and developers’ support are still yet to be fully resolved. However, over the years, technology has already matured enough to be beneficial not just for an increasing number of consumers but for businesses, too. Opportunities for enterprises to implement smartwatches into their work processes grow. And to support this inclusion, we have started to provide a solution available to companies no matter the industry.

How Resco supports smartwatch utilization in business

At our annual resco.next conference in Roma last year, we showcased our new concept of indoor activity tracking. By using smartwatches, businesses can gather location, activity, and even body function data to gain new insights into the work of mobile staff. What’s more, within Resco Autumn’s and Winter’s update, we brought one of our key solutions to smartwatches.
Resco Industry Watch initiative
Resco Inspections on wearables enables technicians, manufacturers, inspectors, and other employees to keep their hands free for a task but still have digital features within their reach. A voice control allows them to input data without the need to tap on the display. Technicians working in heights, car mechanics fixing an issue, or manufacturers wearing gloves can all benefit from smartwatch utilization.
A discreet form factor also provides companies with the necessary flexibility during their work processes. Smartwatches can help workers to fulfill their tasks where tablets and smartphones prove ineffective.
Resco Inspections questionnaires on wearables are fully customizable, secure, and ready to be used even offline. We have made them available for watchOS and WearOS platforms so companies can benefit from them on a variety of devices.

Use cases for enterprise smartwatches

Over the past few months, we’ve encountered smartwatches across several innovative scenarios with a wide range of tasks:

Use case no.1: Discreet data input during mystery shopping

Company: Outsourcing job agency
Workflow: Workers visit shops where they’re tasked to perform mystery shopping. As they complete the task, they log all findings into a predefined questionnaire on their smartwatches. This way, they can discreetly finish the job and immediately sync data online to a CRM system where the back office can see the results in real-time.
Smartwatch requirements: LTE connectivity, elegant design

Use case no.2: Workplace analysis and optimization in manufacturing

Worker using smartwatch in a warehouse
Company: Automotive manufacturer
Workflow: Employees enter the workplace by holding their smartwatches close to a reader, which will record the time of their arrival. Smart beacons in production halls connect to the watches and register the movement and position of workers within the factory. Sensors in smartwatches track the productivity, exhaustion, and stress levels of the workers and give appropriate recommendations based on the results. Operators analyze the collected data and then optimize work processes to increase productivity and worker safety.
Smartwatch requirements: lower price point because of large volumes needed, long battery life, health & movement tracking features, strong build

Use Case no.3: Hands-free interaction with smartwatches during maintenance

Company: Wind power plant operation and maintenance
Workflow: Certified technicians climb into wind turbine constructions and locate the place of the issue. As they get through the necessary steps of the repair, they fill out a predefined questionnaire – using only voice commands and keeping their hands free to resolve the problem and ensure their safety. Without cellular connection, the device saves the data and automatically sync when an LTE network becomes available.
Requirements: Voice control support, LTE connectivity, strong build, long battery life, excellent display visibility in direct sunlight

Where to start?

As you can see, there are numerous situations where smartwatches can improve productivity, optimize processes, increase worker safety, or reduce administration in a company. With smartwatch, enterprises can now utilize digital technology in scenarios that demand even more discretion or flexibility than attainable with smartphones or tablets.
Get to know our state-of-the-art Field Service 2.0 technology enabling you to stay ahead of your competition and drive business growth with the help of smartwatches.