Wearable technology has arrived. No longer just a novelty, millions of Americans use wearable devices to monitor everything from sleep quality and fitness activity to navigation. Whether it’s glasses, jewelry, headgear, belts, footwear, or skin patches, demand and applications for wearables continues to grow. It’s already a $20 billion market, and it’s projected to hit $70 billion by 2025. While much of that growth was driven by individual consumers, businesses may be the next frontier.
Employee health care isn’t cheap. Especially when employees aren’t healthy. Which is why corporate wellness programs to incentivize healthy habits for employees are on the rise. And many of those wellness programs are utilizing wearable fitness devices so employees can easily track and compare progress. A technology consulting firm called Appirio implemented one such Fitbit-powered program, and they even got their health insurance provider to give them a six percent discount for doing it.
It’s not just wellness programs either. Some business are looking into using wearable technology to prevent workplace injuries. Nonfatal workplace injuries cost U.S. businesses nearly $62 billion for direct workers compensation in 2015. So a host of new wearable technology companies are emerging to try to reduce the risk of workplace injuries. One such company, Kinetic, sells a device and platform that uses sensors to gather data on the user’s posture and provides feedback on how their form can be improved. The idea is to make the process of heavy lifting safer for employees.
While wearable technology shows great promise for improving corporate wellness and reducing workplace injuries, there are potential privacy and legal concerns that employers should consider. Data collected by employers from wearable devices may be subject to the provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and other privacy and discrimination issues could also arise. So companies looking to equip employees with wearables will need to take extra care to accommodate a shifting legal and regulatory landscape.
All that said though, wearable technology does have the potential to improve the health and wellness of employees everywhere. And companies might even save some money in the process.