Do smart watches have a place in business?

With Samsung launching the Galaxy Gear and Apple rumoured to announce the iWatch, will smart watches find a home in the boardroom?

However, as Quocirca principal analyst Rob Bamforth explained, wearable electronics such as smart watches and Google Glass will become an interesting concept for business users.

Bamforth recently attended a briefing by Fortinet focused on research it had carried out, taking a look at the relationship between generation Y (those born in the 1980s and 1990s) and wearable technology.

It really depends what it does. After all the perfect audio accessory for voice calls on the mobile phone is the Bluetooth earpiece, yet they are hard to find among those driving cars (who probably should be using them), let alone those in the office or the boardroom.

When asked how long it would take for wearable technologies such as smart watches and Google Glass to become widespread at work or being used for work purposes, 16 per cent of the respondents said they would enter the workplace immediately. A further 33 per cent said they would use wearables at work when costs came down. Just eight per cent of the entire sample disagreed that the technologies would become widespread.

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"However, these Gen Y folk are not yet in the boardroom, so I'd expect a little more pragmatism in the short term," Bamforth explained.

There are some themes that look to counter the widespread adoption of smart watches, according to Bamforth. This includes the fact that a watch is essentially a piece of jewellery and, as such, anything that looks cheap/tacky/geeky is generally less appealing than a Rolex- especially to a board member.

Another reason smart watches won't necessarily catch on is the fact for many - especially the younger generation - mobile phones are used as a viable alternative to wrist watches and alarm clocks. Putting something on one's wrist is a diminishing trend, Bamforth claims. 

But can Apple make these people take a u-turn and adopt smart watches with the launch of the iWatch?

"There is no guarantee Apple will launch this rumoured product. An Apple introduction of a predicted iWatch would however help to validate the fledgling market for smart watches," said Kevin Restivo, senior analyst at IDC's mobility research arm. 

Bamforth however, thinks Apple has the ability to make the geeky appear cool. He adds that boardroom members have been early adopters before, with mobile email on Blackberry, tablets and so on. 

"As to whether wrist-wear' hits the right buttons for them, I'm less sure. It really depends what it does. After all the perfect audio accessory for voice calls on the mobile phone is the Bluetooth earpiece, yet they are hard to find among those driving cars (who probably should be using them), let alone those in the office or the boardroom," he explained. 

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