Watches, bracelets, and necklaces are no longer just accessories, but rather gadgets that can serve as lifelines during emergencies. Tech companies have revolutionized wearable accessories, creating a space in the industry for tools that protect and inform users in their everyday lives. As the market expands, the possibilities only grow for how technology can play a vital role in connecting users to public safety when assistance is needed most. Wearable devices are the future of workplace safety, doing much more for users than tracking their steps around the office or receiving texts during meetings.
According to a report by PwC, more than 75 million wearables will be used in the workplace by 2020. Wearables companies are positioned to strengthen their permanence in the workplace by taking steps to build stronger relationships with their users.
More than personal products, wearables have the power to alter the employee experience into one that is more productive and ultimately more secure. New health and safety features now alert users of irregularities and health concerns through features like ECG tests, fall detection, and step trackers. In the case of a life-threatening situation, wearable devices can show first responders this real-time, vital data from wearables before they arrive at the scene of emergencies.
Wearables also offer distracted employees a way to track their health and ensure their personal safety – whether they’re sitting in their office, working in a warehouse, or making cleaning rounds in a hotel.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that some 2 million Americans are victims of workplace violence each year. An SHRM report found that nearly 1 in 7 Americans feels unsafe at work. Wearables can help quell those fears and insecurities that workers feel by giving them smart products that connect to help when necessary.
For positions that require independence, like couriers and hotel cleaning staff, wearables can be a faster way to call for help in times of crisis or danger. Panic buttons, in particular, are discreet and immediate when triggering alerts for help. Coming in the form of charms or clip on accessories for uniforms, panic buttons can be connected to the workplace or a mobile app, which may store information about the user.
The ROAR for Good panic button, Athena, was made specifically for staff at hotels to trigger in dangerous situations. With complete dead spot coverage and room-specific location tracking, the charm offers employees a reliable solution for their workplace concerns.
The possibilities for panic button applications in the workplace are far greater than just location tracking. Such wearables can be integrated with other devices that contain demographic and health information about the user. If the wearable recognizes the floor plan of the workplace, it can inform employers about employee whereabouts, and even issue warnings if they get too close to danger zones.
Wearables can also tune into a person’s health, especially in workplaces that require high physical activity from workers. OSHA reports employers pay around $1 billion per week for direct workers’ compensation costs. Though a smart watch might not prevent a degenerative disease or undo a lifetime of hard work, they can improve visibility and reduce accidents through custom alerts and location tracking. Thus, these devices may help reduce those costs considerably.
At Fujitsu’s Kawasaki offices, workers and security guards wear smart wristbands that track temperature, pulse, and heat stress in workers using AI. These smart wristbands send real-time data to employers, who can react accordingly and deploy help if necessary. The Deloitte Smart Helmet Clip, with its modular sensor suite, gives miners and industrial operators situational awareness, including location, alerts for presence of dangerous gasses, and updates on a worker’s vital signs.
Health-tracking wearables can prepare employers with situational awareness like never before. Smart tech can prevent injury before it happens, but also keeps workers aware of their health to ultimately improve productivity.
Tech companies can look forward to providing users peace of mind with smart wearable devices that can connect to 9-1-1 when needed. The problem, however, is that they may be battling an outdated infrastructure. In recent years, the NG911 initiative has aimed to upgrade the system to support callers in a wireless world.
Another drawback is cost, as wearable technology might come with additional software requirements to fully implement, in addition to the price of the hardware itself. Wearables can also prove to be distractions for the common worker if they have features that do more than just track health and ensure safety. Finally, no technology is immune to bugs, malfunctions, or cyber-security risks.
Nevertheless, wearables bring peace of mind to employees and employers alike as they navigate work environments that might feel unsafe – whether that’s due to hostility in the office or dangerous field work.
As the industry expands and the innovators push the envelope further, wearables will not only become cheaper, they’ll become safer too. The evolving industry grants tech companies ample room to innovate wearable devices with more safety features.
E-textiles are on the rise as well: products like Google’s Jacquard and Loomia can be integrated into uniforms to support employees in a more inconspicuous way. Dress shirts and uniforms in the near future might vibrate or light up to alert users of events in their workplace, whether it’s a meeting or an emergency. User safety can also be used by companies to increase brand equity, creating memorability and more meaningful relationships with users.
The rise of 5G might also make communication between technology companies and 9-1-1 easier. Data has started to become available to emergency communication centers, as companies like RapidSOS change the 9-1-1 data landscape by establishing a direct data link between wearable tech companies and first responders. With a direct data link, there are endless possibilities for wearables in the workplace to make workers feel safer and more secure.