Mobile, Wearables, and the Future of Work: COVID-19 edition
COVID-19 has been wrecking our lives since last year and from the looks of it, it could take a while to reach the new normal. But the disruption has also been remarkable due to the positive mindset changes we have made while dealing with topics like health, safety, remote working, climate change, sustainability, and digital transformation in general.
The only way we humans should react to such rude awakenings is to make the best of it.
Over the past weekend, I was thinking about how innovations in Enterprise Mobility could help workers cope with the challenges posed by the pandemic. Especially after it has forced them to keep working normally despite staying away from their usual working environments.
Why Enterprise Mobility? Because it is a topic close to my heart and my main area of expertise.
I started by revisiting the learnings gained from an extensive research that I was part of last year. The goal of the research was to find the promising trends in the mobile and wearable areas which could impact the Future of Work.
The following three trends clearly stood out at the end of that research.
1. Extended Reality
Extended Reality (XR) refers to all those technologies that enhance the user’s physical world with digital information in a way that creates a sense of immersion. The ‘X’ in XR represents any existing or future technologies, including the likes of Augmented Reality (AR), Mixed Reality (MR) and Virtual Reality (VR). The technology is made accessible to the users via mobile phones, smart glasses, smart mirrors, or some form of a head-mounted display.
The technology though not new, came out on top thanks to its resilience, overcoming the hype-cycles and constantly getting ripe in terms of its usability and overall utility. Further, owing to the investments in this area especially by some prominent technology players, the hardware costs have come down significantly and it is only expected to get more affordable. This is crucial for its success as hardware costs are still one of the biggest hindrances preventing the mass usage of these technologies.
Together with its ability to vastly improve user experience, its value in making workplaces safer and its application in several key industries makes it one of the champions of the future of work trends. Don’t be surprised if you soon see AR technologies being employed in use cases like Virtual Try-On and Virtual Try-Before-You-Buy in your favorite Retail store. You might also find the technician who comes to your home to repair your broken appliance use AR-enabled glasses to get instructions while fixing it. Finally, it won’t be a far-fetched scenario to expect doctors to perform remote diagnoses or surgeries using MR glasses soon.
2. Digital assistant augmented workflows
Digital Assistants comprise of all those software agents that help you as the user, to converse with a digital system naturally using the language of your choice to make it perform tasks on your behalf. E.g., Virtual assistants like Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, or Google Assistant. Chatbots in mobile apps and websites.
They get even more resourceful when combined with the
- Automated workflows created by tools like Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
- Visual understanding of the world around us, built using computer vision technologies. E.g., Image recognition
- Business recommendations generated using Prescriptive Analytics
Its potential to re-define conventional user interfaces, automate repeatable tasks and deliver valuable insights would help you focus on high-value tasks and be even more productive.
Finally, what makes them so powerful is the fact that they are accessible from your mobile devices. Think about it — having a mobile phone these days is like having a supercomputer in your pocket. This means that you have access to all the powerful technologies, whenever and wherever you want, and you can interact with them naturally.
Digital Assistants could be deployed in every industry where a person is involved and seeks assistance. Assistance could be simple in nature like telling the time or creating an appointment in the calendar. It could also be complex in nature as in filling a form, hailing a taxi, providing guidance while approving a shopping cart, or while filing an expense report.
3. Hyper-personalization of enterprise systems
This involves customizing every bit of the application to the user, based on his/her personal preferences and the context.
This is important as it hits the nerve of the user and makes him/her fall in love with the application. Really, at the end of the day, all that matters is the fact that an application has succeeded in helping the users with their work, at the right time and in a manner they expect to be helped.
This requires a thorough understanding of the users and then charting specific solutions for every user. Building up a detailed understanding, in turn, necessitates the collection and synthesis of a ton of user’s personal data. This could be very unsettling for users as they could be skeptical about how it could be (mis)used.
The trick to getting this right is to gain user’s trust in the application provider’s ability to process their personal data. This can be done by making things transparent on what personal data is collected, how is it used, and demonstrating that the personal data is handled with utmost safety.
There are several Biometric and data privacy protection technologies that are already available in the mobile and wearable devices of today that could be used to create hyper-personalization. I am talking about the technologies that help in user’s
1. Identification – Digital Identity technologies like Face, Voice, Fingerprint, Vein pattern recognition, etc.
2. Emotional and psychological understanding – Emotional AI, Brain-Computer interface, etc.
3. Physical behavior understanding – Gait Recognition, Gaze Tracking, etc.
The good news is that these technologies are continuously getting better thanks to the ever-increasing awareness on this topic and the regulations governments across the world are putting in place to ensure data privacy protection.
The applications of this trend are again universal. Wherever a person is involved in the workflow, we have a chance to adopt this trend to improve the customer experience. Prominent examples of hyper-personalization include providing
- Customized sales promotions to the users when they approach a store
- Tailored customer service based on customer’s situation, mood, and context
- Personalized health prescriptions by tracking vital statistics using smart apparel
to name a few.
Fast forward to today
Have the above trends from the pre-pandemic era weathered the test of the COVID-19 storm?
I believe yes, as most of the predictions made in 2020, remain true and the COVID-19 situation has only expedited the need to deal with them. The situation has reiterated the importance of these technologies as many of them are already being employed to address the new challenges seen in office collaboration, Telemedicine, M-commerce (mobile commerce), BOPIS (Buy Online Pick up in Store) and Last-mile Logistics/Mobile-Warehouse areas, to name a few.
The adoption of mobile and wearable technologies is only going to accelerate, and enterprises of all sizes need to sit up, take notice and act soon.
Please let me know which technologies you think would impact the workplace of the future in the comments section below. I would love to hear your thoughts.