Enterprise smartwatch use is catching on

Cincinnati airport janitors use smartwatches to get notified when a restroom needs cleaning

Smartwatches are getting a foothold in the enterprise.

In the latest example of a trial, Samsung Galaxy S3 smartwatches are helping janitors do timely cleanups of restrooms at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. Another successful four-month Samsung smartwatch trial last fall gave restaurant servers alerts when customers arrived or needed service.

The smartwatches run an app called TaskWatch made by Samsung partner Hipaax. In the airport example, janitors are notified when and where a restroom needs to be cleaned and restocked. Bluetooth sensors at the restroom doorways count the number of users. When 150 customers have passed through a restroom, a notification is sent to the janitorial team.

An employee who is part of janitorial team can click the smartwatch to accept the cleaning task and will get reward points for being the first to do so. Six employees are testing the smartwatches in a trial that began last October.

The TaskWatch app has provided real-time insights about restroom visits, which can vary greatly based on flight arrivals and departures. As such, the app is an improvement over old-fashioned paper work schedules, said Brian Cobb, vice president of customer relations at the airport, in an email. "Housekeeping staff get a break from the routine and are prepared to be more nimble," he said.

At first, the airport trial used Wi-Fi connections to the smartwatches, which provided only intermittent connections. The airport switched to cellular connectivity to the Gear S3 watches which led to greater maintenance team satisfaction, Cobb said. Assuming continued success with the trial, Cobb said the TaskWatch app and smartwatches will roll out in 2018. The airport could even use the smartwatches for concierge services and emergency communications.

In the restaurant trial, waiters, managers and other staff using smartwatches were able to turn over tables to new customers four minutes faster than before, leading to more tables served and a 7% increase in average daily revenue, said John Gerbus, multi-franchise owner for Buffalo Wings and Rings. The trial took place at one Cincinnati Buffalo Wings location over four months, ending last October.

The TaskWatch app at the restaurant notified servers when guests were seated, and if no waiter arrived after a certain time, a manager could be notified. Alerts were created for when a table was ready to be cleaned and other tasks, such as a digital notification when a manager had visited a table to greet guests.

Servers got higher tips during the course of trial, an indication of its success, said Julie Godfrey, Samsung manager of retail solutions for wearable technology.

In both examples, the use of a smartwatch is seen as advantageous over a smartphone or tablet, mainly because it kept workers hands free, said Godfrey and Bharat Saini, CTO and founder of Hipaax, the app developer. Saini said the app will be sold as a service to enterprises with a monthly fee per user, although the final cost has not been announced. Each Samsung smartwatch costs about $300.

Jitesh Ubrani, an analyst at IDC, said the Samsung restaurant trial is somewhat similar to what Apple has done with the Apple Watch and Resy, a reservation system, in a trial at a New York restaurant.

However, Ubrani said the airport restroom trial is taking smartwatches a little further by adding a kind of game experience for janitors to compete to clean a restroom first, providing them an incentive and promoting usage.

"More interesting to me is the use of sensors in the restrooms," Ubrani added. "I'm glad to see Samsung is using the watch as part of a larger wireless ecosystem."

"Samsung is also doing a great job at device manageability and security with the use of their Knox platform" in connection with the smartwatch trials, Ubrani added.

Samsung believes enterprises of all types will want to digitally record routine tasks like the time taken to serve a customer to improve overall performance. Having that data recorded automatically with an easy-to-use wearable will help smartwatch adoption in the enterprise.

Samsung also provides geo-fencing capabilities to the watches, meaning that if a worker walks off the job with the smartwatch it can be set to quit functioning entirely. Also, other smartwatch apps can be disabled so that workers focus on the Taskwatch app exclusively.

While smartwatches took a while to catch on, there is promise for enterprise usage. "In conversations with CIOs, I've seen interest in smartwatches accelerate a little bit," Saini said. "People in business are getting excited about the potential with access to real-time analytics."

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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