​Wearables in the workplace: The tech taking over your office in 2017

The wearables and smart tech coming to your workplace whether you like it or not
Wearables invading the office in 2017

From virtual assistants to stress-busting wearables and real-time translation devices, tech is set to redefine the 21st century office.

Widespread recognition that employee 'wellness' can actually increase productivity means employees are taking extra steps to keep their workers happy, with many companies already giving out fitness trackers to employees.

Read this: The best smartwatches to buy right now

And while the vast amount of data that could be collected by employers inevitably raises concerns over ethics and privacy, the advance of wearable tech into the office continues.

From clothing to more innovative wrist-worn devices, meet the wearables that could be turning up at your workplace this year.

Don't slouch at your desk

Wearables in the workplace: The tech taking over your office in 2017

Typing away at your computer all day can lead to a range of negative health effects, not least chronic back ache. That's why posture-correcting wearables like the Lumo Lift are becoming more popular for those that want to sit up straight.

The Upright Go, which is set to land soon on Kickstarter, is designed to track posture and provide feedback to the wearer so that they can adjust their sitting position. While the maker's previous product focussed on the lower back, the Go, which will have an early bird price of $59 is designed, to monitor the posture of the upper back and sits between the shoulder blades.

Get up and moving

Wearables in the workplace: The tech taking over your office in 2017

It's not just posture that's important for desk-bound workers - breaking up the day with some physical activity is also vital. Just an hour of physical activity every day can counteract the negative effects of sitting at a desk all day long, according to research published last year.

Read this: The best fitness trackers

The use of fitness trackers in the workplace is probably the best known example of wearable tech heading to the office. Many companies already offer free or subsidised trackers devices to employees in a bid to help them shed pounds, maintain a healthy weight or to simply keep their daily step count up. And of course, it's for purely selfish reasons - healthier employees means less sick leave and more productive workers.

Fitbit has its own corporate wellness initiative with big brands including IBM, Time Warner and Target having already experimented with the scheme. Health insurance giant Vitality also offers cut-price Apple Watches if you can keep up your step count.

Throw on some connected clobber

Wearables in the workplace: The tech taking over your office in 2017

While most smart garments are currently geared towards fitness, there is scope for smarter work wear as well. Samsung's tailored NFC Smart Suit, created in collaboration with Rogatis, enables the wearer to unlock their phone, digitally swap business cards and switch gadgets between office and drive modes. The connected suit is on sale in Korea for around $500, but there's no news on when it might turn up in offices elsewhere around the globe.

Meanwhile, Levi's Commuter Trucker Jacket is set to land in spring, aimed primarily at cycling commuters. Designed with Google as part of the collaborative Project Jacquard, the garment packs conductive yarn and a detachable smart tag that turns the sleeves into interactive surfaces for accessing music and maps from the wearer's phone.

SmartCap is another example of a smart garment making its way into the workplace, albeit not in an office - yet. Available as a baseball hat, beanie or headband, SmartCap is aimed at heavy vehicle operators and is designed to monitor fatigue using EEG.

No longer lost in translation

Wearables in the workplace: The tech taking over your office in 2017

The Clik earbud from UK startup Mymanu is device that could change the way you do business. Due to arrive with crowd fund backers in May, the £155 hearable promises to translate 37 different languages in real time using a built-in microphone and microprocessor. Waverley Labs' $249 Pilot translation earpiece is also due to land in late summer.

We should also talk about the Bragi Dash earbuds that's better known for its onboard activity tracking alongside touch and gesture controls. There's also an audio transparency feature that enables the wearer to listen to their music while still hearing what's going on around them - something that could prove useful for office workers who want some tunes without the isolation of headphones.

What's more, 360-degree 3D audio is being added this year, which has the potential to improve virtual meetings but creating the illusion of voices coming from different directions.

Staying focused on the task at hand

Wearables in the workplace: The tech taking over your office in 2017

Hydration wearables are set to be big this year, and while there are already smartwatch apps that remind the wearer to drink water, they don't actually monitor the wearer's hydration levels.

Read this: Why hydration monitoring wearables are going to be a big deal

Like many wearable devices, the primary market is fitness aficionados, as hydration is more likely to be a problem for active types who sweat buckets during a workout. But not only is staying properly hydrated important for maintaining temperature and for a healthy heart, it's also important for maintaining concentration. And beyond the office, it's even more important for those who work outdoors and in hot environments.

Hydration isn't the easiest thing to measure, but 2017 is set to see more gadgets like the Halo Edge wrist tracker emerging. This uses optical sensors to measure water levels, and electromagnetic pads to keep an eye on sodium and potassium levels in the blood plasma.

Another device - the LVL from BSX Athletics - uses optical red light-based sensors that enable it to pinpoint water signals at various depths of the body.

Don't get stressed out

Wearables in the workplace: The tech taking over your office in 2017

With the trend for wellness putting just as much emphasis on keeping our minds in shape as our bodies, stress tracking devices could be keeping us centred in 2017. Apple kicked things off with its Watch OS3 update, which includes the Breathe app. This relaxing app is designed to help Apple Watch users relax by focusing on their breathing.

Read this: Can a wearable actually make you calmer?

Due to launch soon, the Thync Relax takes the idea a step further - the device is worn draped around the neck and offers a mini massage to keep the wearer chilled.

For a slightly more subtle approach, the $139 Bellabeat Leaf Urban, which can be worn as a bracelet, necklace or clip tracks various parameters including steps, sleep and ovulation and combines the data to help understand the wearer understand their stress triggers and how to manage them.

Everyone gets an assistant

Wearables in the workplace: The tech taking over your office in 2017

AI assistants like Microsoft Cortana and Apple Siri have been steadily gaining ground in recent years, but it's Amazon's Alexa that has proved to be the surprise hit.

Starting out built into Amazon's Echo speaker, Alexa is popping up in a rapidly expanding range of products including smart lamps and fridges and will be included in all Sonos speakers by the end of the year.

After completely redefining how we think of voice-controlled digital assistants, Alexa will be going beyond the smart home in 2017 into connected cars, smartphones and wearables. The potential of a voice-controlled that actually proves to be useful, combined with its ability to be built into pretty much any Wi-Fi connected gadgets means that the potential for Alexa in the workspace is huge.


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