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The untapped potential of mobile & wearable technology

By Mark Speyers

Electronic document management and other digitalization initiatives definitely help enterprises to reduce the paper pile. Mobilizing business processes though takes the organization to a higher level. Mobilization enables both the smooth performance of process tasks away from the desk while truly engaging the operator.Three power vectors of the industry 4.0 evolution will make it happen : mobile technology, smart eyewear and gamification.

The 3 forces driving mobilisation of business processes

Too many ‘paper & pen’ procedures

While the company minds are awakening to the potential of the Internet of Things and to the other forces of the Industry 4.0 (r)evolution, enterprise reality is still flooded with paper. How many shop floor work orders or logistic picking and packing instructions do we print daily? How many cabinets do we still fill with all kinds of instruction manuals? How many checklists, controls and procedures do we still manage with pen and paper?

A growing number of companies and service organizations will definitely claim they have implemented or at least started a wave of digitalization to reduce the paper pile. Some have indeed replaced various paper instructions and forms by a pdf or another digital format which is maintained and distributed electronically. Others systematically scan completed and submitted paper forms to archive the evidence. But a pdf or any electronic form should not be interpreted as an electronic process. They constitute valuable atoms of the larger digital process molecules.Yet true mobilization of business processes goes far beyond the level of electronic document management.

Mobile Technology

The definition of the verb ‘mobilize’ is an eye-opener for the discussion on business process mobilization. The first dimension of the definition phrases to ‘mobilize’ as ‘the marshalling for action’, while the second clarification emphasizes the aspect of ‘bringing something or someone into movement’. How can we enable and assure the smooth execution of a business process away from the desk? The combination of both notions of the definition is the key to the solution.

As a result of Moore’s law, a smartphone or tablet is moving the personal computer from a human’s lap into his pocket or her purse. Though we probably picture a different kind of device when thinking about wearable computers, de facto mobiles have become the one closest to our heart. Today’s mobile is stuffed with sensors and it embeds abundant technology to connect us with the internet and with other devices: 4G, Wifi, Bluetooth, NFC. Mobile technology that connects us wherever and whenever is the first force enabling business process mobilization. No need to tell where the action is taking place. The GPS provides the outdoor position while Bluetooth low energy beacons reveal the indoor perimeter you’re in.

Smart Eyewear

It’s nice to know that mobile technology paved the way to provide us with location and context sensitive information or instructions to adequately execute the process. But out there in the field or on the factory floor, in the heat of the action,some of us need their hands free to do the job. Smart eyewear can render the information in the blink of an eye. A pair of smart glasses is the hands-free extension of the mobile in our pocket. The future will tell if it will remain the extension or it will become the replacement. The embedded camera in the frame operates as your third eye. Capturing what you see and combining it with back-end information systems, it can project indications as a digital layer in your field of view. This is the definition of augmented reality. It can help you navigate between the racks and shelves of a warehouse. It can show you how to dismantle a pump for maintenance. Though reality can technically be augmented on a mobile or tablet view, it is not a hands-free perspective.Enriching the view while keeping the hands free is the reason why smart eyewear is the second force fostering the mobilization of business processes.


The first two forces can make the execution of a business process mobile: bringing the process into movement by performing tasks effectively and efficiently anytime, anywhere. But how do we marshal for action? Commanding is one way and obviously the orders can be shouted into your smartphone. Yet execution because you have to might be less successful than when you would be committed to. We can provide you with files filled with documents detailing you what to do and how to do it right. But will you take the time to read them? We can tell you over and over again how to proceed correctly, but will you listen attentively? What if we replace all these boring instructions by something new, something fun? Something that you like to do on a free night? Gamification is the third force that can help mobilizing the business process. An element of gaming will engage us to play it a higher level as most of us like to win.

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