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US perception of wearables at work lags rest of world

Based on a recent study by The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated (conducted by Harris Poll), it looks like the US is going to lag behind other industrial economies in the adoption of wearables at work. Chinese and German workers are much more inclined to adopt wearables. Note the Wearables at Work study was international, and there is data on many other countries, but I am focusing solely on these three for this post.

Some evidence for that conclusion:

  • Only 48% of US adults believe that wearables could benefit the workplace, compared to 94% in China and 72% in Germany.
  • 81% of Chinese adults have worn tech like headsets, smart badges, and barcode scanners for work-related activities, as have 56% of Germans. Only 20% of US adults have.
  • Only 8% of US adults have used phone headsets (wired or wireless) for work, compared to 60% in China and 26% in Germany.
  • Given the premise that wearables would make them more efficient at work, only 33% of US adults say that is a reasons that would make them more likely to use wearables at work. 49% of Chinese and 38% of Germans agreed.
  • Germany was the only country where increased co-worker collaboration was cited as a top three reason for wearables at work.
  • 40% of employed adults in China were interested in using wearable technology to enable friendly workplace competition, the highest of any country.

While US adults seem to be lagging, US students seem to have a different attitude. 21% of US adult students use wearables, while only 13% of working US adults do. Even more telling, 72% of US students see at least one way that wearables could better the workplace, while only 48% of working adults do.

I am being a bit facetious, but will we be worried about the ‘wearables gap’ as a factor in US business productivity in the years to come?

Behind all this is how astonishly uncool Google Glass is, I believe. The impact of Glass on the popular sense about wearables has been localized to the US, largely, because the way that Google has soft-marketed it and because of the people they initially selected for their explorers program.

Like other innovations that were slow to take off, maybe we’ll have to wait for Apple to get into the wearables game to make it really take off. My bet is a few years after Apple Watch has come out — or after a hypothetical Apple Glass has been demoed — the US perception of wearables will rapidly shift.

Note that I will be participating in a tweetchat about the report with folks from the Workforce Institute on December 1 at 12pm eastern time. The hashtag will be #wearablesatwork.