Will it wear out your mobile budget?

With the recent launch of the world’s first dedicated app store for wristband devices, 2014 may turn out to be the year of the wearable.  It may also be the year we see a whole new category of data hungry devices enter the workplace.

From the new and more fashionable Google Glass, to bio-monitoring wristbands, to smartwatches like Pebble and the long rumoured ‘iWatch’, wearable tech looks set to make the leap beyond wealthy early adopters to the mainstream. If it makes the next jump into the workplace, mobility managers will face a whole new category of management challenges.
That’s because wearables will bring the same mix of promised business advantages and data-hungry applications that tablets and smartphones did before them. So are we looking at the opening scenes of BYOD: The Sequel?
Early evidence suggests they are already well on their way to work. Businesses in the US have begun offering biological monitoring devices as standard kit within corporate health plans. Samsung, meanwhile, is subsidizing its Gear smartwatch aggressively as a free or heavily discounted add-on to mobile plans. As Gear devices need to be tethered to a smartphone, it may soon become commonplace for employees to suddenly have two devices drawing from the same company-owned cellular data connection.
The likelihood of Google Glass moving into the workplace is harder to gauge. Whilst the recent re-styling will make what was a geeks-only gadget more attractive to the fashion-conscious, price points are still prohibitively high and technical issues such as battery life are a serious inhibitor to mass adoption. Worries about the security of company information and privacy may keep it out of the workplace altogether.
Should that change, or if companies decide to trial glass as an efficiency and collaboration enhancer, mobility managers can expect to see a sharp rise in data costs from all the image and video that Glass devices will capture. Glass also requires tethering to a smartphone — another case of two devices drawing from a single connection.
It all points to a new wave of bill shock. Remember that even before the buzz around wearables, handset upgrade cycles were driving successive increases in mobile data consumption. Each new generation of iPhone, for example, has resulted in increases in data consumption of between 20-40 percent (source: JDSU Research 2014). Operators are doing everything they can to make networks faster. End users have shown a strong propensity to use up as much data as networks and handsets will provide.
With analysts at Credit Suisse predicating that the wearable tech market will grow from $1.4bn (£878m) in annual sales in 2013 to $50bn (£31.3bn) by 2018, the question may well be ‘how will you keep them out?’

Attending this year’s Mobile World Congress? Check out the session on wearable tech on Thursday, 27th of February.