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June 12, 2020

We are living in unprecedented times as we continue to battle through the COVID-19 crisis, where social distancing and isolation are unfortunately our best and only option of protecting ourselves and one another. Many industries have the luxury of modern digital technology to successfully transition to a work-from-home environment. That said, there are several industries essential to societal survival that require people to go to work every day and to perform their daily duties.

These people are at a much higher risk. Fortunately, we have the technology to minimize that risk, if even to an extent. Wearable technology and the connected wearable ecosystem is an integral part of that safety net.

Wearables in healthcare

The first industry that comes to mind when discussing enterprise wearables during the COVID-19 crisis is the healthcare industry. Doctors and patients alike are at an extremely high risk of contracting the virus, as hospitals continue to take on new cases each day. Through wearable integration, hospital staff can monitor and respond to patient needs in real-time, all without touching any communal internet of things (IoT) devices that may have previously been used for patient data recording or triage processing. Personal wearable devices allow for doctors to input, search, and analyze data on their own person, with minimal risk of surface-to-surface contact between fellow employees.

Similarly, wearable devices on patients can help physicians make more informed decisions in this time of need. Through shared wearable IoT data, physicians can monitor and proactively respond to changes in patient health without even making an appointment. These proactive monitoring capabilities have proven to reduce hospital admissions, especially during a time when hospital staff are often at, or even beyond, capacity.

Impact on other essential industries

Healthcare workers are of course not the only ones at risk here. There are several other essential industries working hard to deliver products and services that are necessary for societal survival in this unprecedented time. Shop-floor workers in manufacturing plants are working to shift supply chain processes to meet vital personal protective equipment (PPE) and healthcare needs; grocery and delivery workers are working around the clock to provide consumers with essential products at the store or at home; our critical infrastructure still needs to be properly maintained—with field service technicians making sure our electric grids, gas lines, and water systems are all working as normal.

Working conditions have shifted dramatically for these workers on the frontlines. Wearable IoT devices provide these workers with added connectivity and ease-of-use, but also provide their overall enterprise with valuable data on their employees to minimize any potential risk for outbreak. Devices are already being built to monitor contract tracing in the enterprise, like this line of devices from Estimote that provides enterprises with health-specific surveillance of the entire workforce. If a user switches their health status on their wearable device to potentially or verified infected, the enterprise will have access to location-specific data to discover everyone that the infected employee has been in contact with among the workforce and help stop any further infection from spreading at the source.

Wearable devices can be used for preventative measures as well. Devices have been built to promote and enforce strict social distancing measures to ensure that all employees are operating at the recommended six-foot distancing standard. These wearables can share push notifications to employees who are within six feet of one another and similarly track which employees have violated the six-foot standard, and with whom, in the unfortunate event of an outbreak within a workplace.

Looking beyond the enterprise

Beyond these important enterprise use cases, wearable IoT devices can help with widespread data tracking during times of crises. In fact, the Stanford Medical School, through its Innovation Lab, is currently researching how data from wearables can track the spread and impact of infectious diseases like COVID-19. By understanding such data, researchers can predict and proactively react to potential new infections, even before symptoms appear.

Wearables bring value to enterprises in many different settings. During a time of crisis, these devices are especially beneficial, as they allow for an unprecedented level of interoperability for essential organizations overall, as well as offer an added layer of safety for individual workers who continue to deliver on society’s essential needs. Going forward, it will be interesting to see how work safety regulations shift and how large a role wearables will play throughout.

Gopinathan Krishnaswami is the Global Head of the software segment in the HiTech Business Unit at Tata Consultancy Services. He oversees sales and delivery, builds global strategic infrastructure partnerships and go-to-market strategies, and drives joint offerings and business to customers in the software segment. Gopi has over 30 years of experience in the IT industry, spanning business and IT strategy, IT and infrastructure services, and customer and partner relationship management. Besides, he brings extensive experience in strategic planning, business development, alliance management, team building and leadership, communication, innovation, and delivery excellence. Gopi lives in the Bay Area, California and has an engineering degree from the University of Madras, Chennai, India.


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