Voice-enabled wearables: A new mobile experience


Over the years people have moved from a traditional PC/click experience to a mobile/tap experience. Now consumers seem to be moving to a wearable/voice experience. We see things like smart watches and digital voice assistants (Siri/Alexa/Cortana/Google Assistant) becoming very popular. And because consumer adoption is driving enterprise adoption, we also see large enterprises exploring speech-enabled chatbots, wearable devices and new workplace tools like Alexa for Business. How companies use these new tools is the innovation of tomorrow.

Here are a couple of examples of how consumer adoption has taken place in my personal life using the Apple Watch Series 3. They all have valid use cases for the enterprise and I predict you will see this type of activity soon in the workplace.

“Hey Siri!”

The Apple Watch can be controlled by tapping on the small touch screen, clicking on the side buttons or using voice commands to call Apple’s digital voice assistant, Siri. These options help new users adopt the technology in various ways.  I was already using Siri on my iPhone, but rather to check what it was capable of, than to really make use of it. You still have to walk to your iPhone and be close enough to the device in order for Siri to hear you, so instead of using a voice command, I just pick up my phone and tap on it. With the watch it’s different because you are constantly wearing it on your arm, so it’s quicker to speak directly to it instead of walking to the phone. Voice-enabled wearables would truly let employees be much more mobile.

Calling KITT

In another real-life example, I was walking outside in a parking lot when suddenly a call came in. I simply answered the call on my watch, because by the time I would have found my iPhone in my handbag, I would have probably missed the call! I held the watch about 30 cm from my face and when I told my friend I was talking on my watch she was amazed at how well she could hear me. With the built-in electronic SIM card in the 3 series, you don’t even have to carry your iPhone with you, because it will just connect directly via 4G. Imagine a worker who goes downstairs for lunch but doesn’t take their phone. No problem. It’s now easy to take important calls on the go.

DJ, play that song!

I’m always listening to music when I’m working out. My iPhone is connected to my headphones and when I want to switch songs I have to stop my workout, pull out my phone, look for another song and play it. When I started to use my watch, I subscribed to the Apple Music streaming service at the same time, gaining access to almost any music. Now I just ask Siri to play the song I want — without having to reach for my iPhone. And Siri is very intelligent: You can just say, “Hey Siri, play the latest song from Calvin Harris” or “Play Christmas songs” or “Play the most popular song from Avicii” (when I didn’t remember the name of the song). While my boss may not want me listening to music all day, Siri can help me with other research-related tasks . . . or just play some soothing music to help me focus.

Look, no hands!

You can send a quick SMS text message using Siri while keeping your hands free. This can be useful when you are busy with something (like cooking and both your hands are dirtyJ) and you urgently need to send a text.

Or imagine you are driving and you get a call from one of your clients who wants to make an appointment. By the time you get home, you probably have forgotten to schedule this in your agenda. With the watch, you can just create the appointment while you are driving and keep both hands on the wheel: “Hey Siri, create an appointment with John Doe in my agenda for tomorrow at 2 p.m.”

Adoption in the enterprise

While the watch is primarily a consumer device, it has lots of useful options for the enterpriseWith the Microsoft Outlook watch app, you get a notification on your screen whenever a new email comes in. It allows you to read the first sentence in a glance, and most of the time that is sufficient to understand what the email is about. This prevents a lot of overlooked emails.

Another use case for the enterprise is increasing safety by pushing warnings to the watch. Using the GPS on the watch, you can, for example, track whenever employees are walking in a dangerous zone and alert them on the watch. Or whenever an installation in the factory is reaching abnormal levels, you can alert the employee working on that installation.

Industrial wearables

I strongly believe that wearables and digital voice assistants are the next big thing, in both the consumer and enterprise worlds. Enterprises are starting to adopt voice-enabled industrial wearables. A good example is the RealWear HMT-1, a head-mounted tablet designed for industrial use. Because the device is controlled using voice commands, a field worker can keep his hands free and focus on the job. This results in higher productivity and better quality of work.

Here are two interesting use cases for field workers that can be applied to different industries such as manufacturing, oil & gas and healthcare.

  • Training junior employees. Junior people can be deployed in the field more easily because they can use the HMT-1 to play video recordings or display work instructions. Whenever they are stuck and don’t know how to proceed to the next step, they have the ability to call a remote expert in the office. Using the camera on the HMT-1, the expert can see exactly what the field worker sees and guide them using voice instructions or on-screen annotations.
  • Reducing travel. When there is an issue with an installation in a place that is difficult to reach, such as an oil rig in the middle of the ocean, sometimes an expert needs to fly in on the spot in a helicopter, which can be expensive. With the use of an intrinsically safe wearable device, an employee on the oil rig can just call a remote expert in the office, making travel redundant and significantly reducing cost.

Embrace these new consumer trends and you’ll also keep your employees happy. A Cornerstone survey (PDF) said some 42 percent of millennials say they are likely to leave a company because they are not learning enough. So don’t let your employees leave due to lack of new and engaging experiences or outdated technology at work. And start enjoying the benefits of voice-enabled wearables and other new technology.

Nathalie Vancluysen headshotNathalie Vancluysen is the Global Product Lead for Mobile Business Solutions. Responsible for the mobile apps, augmented reality and wearables business within DXC Workplace & Mobility, she focuses on developing new products for the digital workplace, while working together with key clients and partners.

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