Augmented Workforce Catalyst for New Skills and Transparency

Over the past year, the Business Value Exchange has reported on various forms of augmentation in the workforce and the rising importance of employee experience as a catalyst for innovation and productivity. We have cited numerous examples in different industry sectors, including the use of smart glass on the factory floor and the ingested device as part of a trend towards healthcare self-management.

Google Glass may have bombed with consumers, but businesses quickly recognised its advantages. Support engineers now respond in real time using smart glass technology or a smartwatch to carry out repairs quickly and efficiently while on-site. Engineers talk to customers or experts hands-free when doing maintenance in the field, and receive video guidance and tutorials on the job in handy mobile data drops.

Global courier DHL is piloting the use of wearables and augmented reality (AR) in a warehouse pilot programme to finesse the picking process. AR handily bridges the physical and digital worlds by overlaying information, including text and interactive graphics, onto real-world objects. Employees wearing a head-mounted display (HMD) can view the real world or a video feed provided by a smartphone or tablet.

With so many examples of augmentation occurring in multiple sectors, it’s no surprise that the wearable technology market is expected to grow from $15.74 billion in 2015 to $51.60 billion by 2022. The increasing penetration of smartphones and rising internet mobility are among the key factors fuelling the growth of the global wearable technology market.

Mobile-based augmented reality is a simple and effective form of immersive technology, and is just one part of the device mesh that Gartner names as a top 10 trend in digital for 2016. Enterprise Services showcased the value of AR in its XTech tool at Discover London 2016, helping customers identify potential disruptors. Businesses are expected to be enthusiastic adopters of AR in the coming years.

So the question now is less whether to augment, but rather how, with what and to what degree. These questions are propelled not only by the variety of digital devices on offer but also by an increasing use of artificial intelligence, which is augmenting human judgement. This raises questions about the ethics of augmentation and the desirability of being transparent with customers; for example, when AI or robots are used.

Augmentation in all its many forms is coming and it will change the workplace dramatically and further evolve businesses relationship with their customers. As well as the huge impact on jobs and skills, augmentation will call for ever greater transparency between employers, employees and customers, as digital makes business more porous.

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Helen Beckett

Author: Helen Beckett

Helen Beckett is the Community Manager of the Business Value Exchange. She has been a writer and editor for over 20 years and takes a particular interest in the challenges facing the CIO in today’s business climate.