Samsung tinkering with wearables and VR headset for business

Enterprise wearables will be important but face some obstacles, Samsung says

The Samsung Gear Live lets people reply to messages with pre-programmed responses.

The Samsung Gear Live lets people reply to messages with pre-programmed responses.

Samsung Electronics wants to make work fun and productive with its wearable devices and virtual-reality headset, and it thinks those devices will become more important in enterprises.

The mobile-device company is currently selling smartwatches and the Gear VR headset mostly to consumers, but it is exploring the use of wearables in business with some companies. It is also working with developers to write applications, which are important for smartwatches, and also developing content, a key driver for headsets.

Businesses are interested in smartwatches for alerts and immediate access to critical information, while VR headsets are drawing attention as a potentially powerful way to present multimedia content, said Eric McCarty, vice president of mobile marketing, at a Samsung event in New York.

But both types of devices may also present challenges. For smartwatches, those could be security and weaving them into BYOD programs. Samsung may integrate a security layer if it develops an enterprise-focused wearable, much like it has in its Galaxy smartphones and tablets with the Knox platform, McCarty said.

For a VR headset, the challenges relate to the development and delivery of new content, which will be unique for different businesses and industries, McCarty said.

Samsung proposed some business uses for smartwatches and said there has been interest from the finance and hospitality industries. Day traders could use smartwatches to get alerts on stock prices or make trades on a timely basis. Field service workers could get job alerts while on the road.

In restaurants, smartwatches could be a more efficient way to send service notifications to staff. Such notifications could be received from a server or ordering system via a Bluetooth or 3G connection. Samsung sells its Gear S smartwatch with 3G connectivity, so the devices don't necessarily have to be an extension of the smartphone.

The Gear VR headset could be used for training videos in enterprises, or in the real-estate industry to give virtual tours of homes. There's also an active interest in VR headsets for entertainment on planes, McCarty said. The most interest in headsets is coming from the automotive industry, he said.

But the use of Gear VR is only as good as its multimedia content, which is unique to each company, McCarty said. There are questions around who will develop it and how that content will be deployed, McCarty said.

It will take years of experimentation to figure out how wearables fit in the enterprise, said Bob O'Donnell, principal analyst at Technalysis Research.

Wearables will be useful for those who prefer hands-free computing. A electricity worker fixing a line on a pole may find it convenient to access information through a wearable rather than a smartphone or tablet, O'Donnell said.

"You have to have a pretty robust and rugged device. Consumer-grade stuff isn't really going to cut it," O'Donnell said.

Beyond reminders and alerts, wearables could also be accessories for office workers. Wearables could replace card keys and even serve as pointers while making a presentation.

Device makers may even design custom wearables for companies. Those will be higher priced, small volume and specialized devices, O'Donnell said.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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