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From location tracking to work optimization, wearable technology will continue to alter the office for years to come.

If you think of fun fitness trackers when you hear the word “wearables,” you aren’t alone. But wearables are already becoming so much more. You can use your wristwatch or bracelet to pay for your morning cup of coffee, and that’s only the beginning. It doesn’t take a visionary to see that wearables will play a big role in shaping the office of the future. What seems like a meeting-interrupting nuisance today will make things easier for everyone in your workplace.

Here are a few ways wearable devices will change the office environment.

Simplifying security.
If your business is like many, it’s filled with employees carrying access cards on lanyards or clips. Wearables will eventually eliminate that widespread fashion “don’t.” In the coming years, businesses will work that security into the wearables and smartphones their employees already carry with them.
Look at the hotel industry for a prime example. This same concept could eventually be applied to the workplace, letting professionals move throughout their buildings using their existing gadgets. This would eliminate the need to have a separate wearable specifically to use as a key.

Managing inventory.
Inventory is an ongoing source of anguish for businesses, whether they’re just counting devices in their workspaces or tracking hundreds of thousands of items in a warehouse. Previous generations used pen and paper to manually count every product, but automation has changed all that. In the retail environment, items are usually deducted from inventory at the point of purchase, but even then, a major annual inventory is necessary to make sure everything is accurate.
Over time, inventory has moved to scanners and mobile devices, but wearables will take it one step further. Inventory managers will someday be able to automatically scan items as they see them, cutting out the headache of using a device to find a barcode and read it. This will be done through something like Google Glass, but possibilities abound. The only requirement is that you can scan things just by looking at them.

Tracking employee interactions and morale.

Big Brother will be watching, but it’s not what you think. In the future, wearables will monitor employee activities using wearables. Workers may feel creeped out by the concept, but it can be beneficial to everyone.
A series of tracking wearables is already making its way into the corporate environment, with mixed reactions from consumers and experts (as with any new innovation, it’ll need some tweaking over the next few years). But it’s not all about changing employee behavior; while many focus on the practice of monitoring employee movements, tech developers see bigger benefits in monitoring employee happiness. If am owner or manager cares enough to track how happy employees are and do something about it, employees are more likely to be happy. Everyone wins.

Keeping tabs on employee whereabouts.

One of the most controversial uses of wearables in the workplace is for the purpose of surveillance. Let’s face it: When employees leave the office, employers have no idea what they’re doing. They could be heading home to nap on the business’s dime. There are already devices that can track a car’s movements, but wearables track the person in or out of the car. Just as your phone can reveal your location on a map using GPS, wearables could eventually be used to monitor each employee’s movements, giving employers the information they need to ensure their workers are where they’re supposed to be during the day.
Although this may seem scary to some, for companies with a large number of people in the field all day, it can be an effective way to determine which employee is closest to a customer in need of assistance or a prospect who is interested in a sales pitch. Best of all, it could all be built into their smartphones or watches, reducing the chance they’ll conveniently forget to take the item with them when they leave the house.
By investigating opportunities available via wearable technology, entrepreneurs will discover innovative ways to manage time as well as track and improve day-to-day work performance. It may result in a little less privacy for some employees, but aren’t people used to technology doing that by now?
Aside from more efficient workplaces, another bonus is that wearables can motivate employers to use employee happiness as a quantifiable competitive advantage and actively seek to improve it. The skeptics may scoff, but if this is correct then wearables may have the potential to make everyone a winner.

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