Wearable Computing Will Forever Alter Collaboration, But Not How You Might Think

Brad Shimmin

Brad Shimmin

Summary Bullets:

  • What does Google’s Android Wear mean for enterprise IT and for collaboration vendors?
  • The surprising conjunction of wearable computing and predictive analytics foretells an interesting future where collaboration is driven not by the best interface but by the best intuition.

I’ll say it. I’m a certified, card carrying WIS, a “Watch Idiot Savant” to be specific. I wear a watch 24×7, usually a mainspring driven mechanical piece of what I consider to be wearable art. So it was by no means easy for me to set all of that mechanistic pomposity aside and don one of Google’s new and somewhat awkward Android Wear-based smart watches. But that’s exactly what I did and have done for the past five days, happily sticking with this homely, underpowered and sometimes demanding wrist adornment. What did I learn? First, I’ll most likely need to turn in my WIS card. Second, I’m no longer a slave to my mobile phone. And third, the future of collaboration in the enterprise will no longer be driven by the best interface, but instead it will be ruled by the best intuition.

Let me explain. Collaboration vendors have for the past few years looked to build analytical intelligence into their solutions in an effort to extract what has been termed “the wisdom of crowds.” This has resulted in some very useful tools such as expertise location, sentiment analysis, and content recommendation, just to name a few. These innovations took full advantage of affinities (what you’re reading, who you know, etc.) to predict information and connections that might be of use to you. But what these have lacked is temporal context and the ability to predict. Enter the smart watch, in this instance an Android Wear-based device powered jointly by Android notifications and Google Now (an intelligent personal assistant similar to Apple Siri) using a nifty combination of both touch and voice.

Using predictive analytics (which encompasses data modeling, learning, and mining) to build contextual, ambient awareness (where I’ve been, what I’ve read, who I know, ad infinitum), my Google Now powered watch can predict “when” I need to react to something such as a gate change at the airport, and it can bring that handy bit of information to my attention without breaking my current, real-world context. That is, it does not depend on me to pull out my phone and shuffle through a stream of notifications as I prepare to board the wrong inter-terminal shuttle. Prioritization based upon machine learning algorithms and a rich data set of activities and content results in a simple buzz on the wrist, revealing just the information I need to put my trip back on track.

Now imagine this same scenario playing out within the realm of business knowledge and corporate collaboration and communications. Business Intelligence (BI) tools powered by predictive analytics and big data stores could do the same, merging contextuality and immediacy, making mobile workers truly mobile. By that I mean free from trolling desktop social networking event streams or deciphering a cacophony of mobile alerts, free from the inevitable clutter that comes with modern connectivity.

The trouble of course is twofold. First, we need more analytical investment in collaborative tools. Sadly, there are only a handful of collaboration and communications vendors in possession of the requisite analytical knowhow. And second, we need both those and BI vendors to build for yet another mobile footprint. That will be a tall order, since most software vendors are only now getting their heads around a unified mobile device strategy. Things will only get harder once Microsoft and Apple undoubtedly enter the wearable fray. But that is of no matter in the long term. Wearables and analytics will forever change collaboration for the better. We only need the patience to await their arrival.

About Brad Shimmin
As Principal Analyst for Collaboration and Conferencing at Current Analysis, Brad analyzes the rapidly expanding use of collaboration software and services as a means of improving business agility, fostering employee optimization and driving business opportunities.

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