Numerama was able to discuss with officials from Volvo Sweden, in charge of the modernization of the company. Technicians there now use Apple Watches to communicate with their managers and customers. What if connected watches were also used by pros?
When Apple and Volvo asked us to talk to officials from Volvo Sweden about their use of the Apple Watch at work, we must admit that we were skeptical. Apple's connected watch, even if it largely dominates the competition, is not a product that we imagined intended for professionals. The iPhone's best friend, brilliant for sports and health tracking, is designed for the general public first and foremost.
However, we do not regret for a second having attended this presentation. The Swedish manufacturer, which wanted to modernize its computer system, made the bet to bet on the connected watch from Apple to improve the daily life of its employees. It made us want to learn more about other ways the Apple Watch could serve professionals in the future.
A screen you don't need to hold
A sentence caught our attention during this interview: the advantage of the Apple Watch is “that you can always hold an object while accessing its screen”. We had never thought of it before and, after reflection, here is a perfect definition of the category of “wearables”. Where a smartphone requires human manipulation to be used, a smartwatch works continuously and stays in one place all the time. This quality, which users logically forget over time (which is a good sign), caught the attention of Volvo engineers. They saw it as an opportunity to develop something different, to improve the work of their employees.
Probably big fans of Apple, Volvo Sweden engineers have been equipping their repair center employees with an iPhone, an Apple Watch and AirPods for the past two years. After a test phase, they came to the conclusion that in addition to being happy to receive such valuable products, Volvo employees were much more efficient with these mobile devices (their satisfaction ratings would increase by 80 % on average).
In the past, they multiplied the round trips to a computer station to consult the list of upcoming customers, and consumed a lot of paper. Today, information appears in real time on their wrist, and printers are used 40% less. If something is forgotten during a repair, all they have to do is take a look at the Watch to remember what to do. Same thing when someone calls them, they no longer have to interrupt everything to go to the telephone set. This is particularly practical on manual looms where very heavy objects are carried all day long.
In itself, this digitization of a sector is nothing new. All companies will tell you that IT improves their production and the lives of their employees. On the other hand, using a watch rather than a laptop or tablet seems extremely interesting to us. On the small screen of the watch, technicians are not overloaded with unnecessary information. They can view the list of their appointments, receive instructions and make calls with their clients. That's all, and that's more than enough.
At the end of the day, Volvo Sweden has also taken the gamble of giving its employees the right to keep their devices, which they can therefore use at home or at the gym (Volvo told us that they equip their teams with Apple Watch SE and latest generation iPhone). Regarding the exploitation of data, remember that everything related to health is encrypted on an Apple device. Volvo nevertheless indicates that it remains open to noting the noise exposure that an employee may suffer by analyzing the data from the watch, but ensures that it does not use the watch to monitor its employees who do what they want with it.
Connected watches, before augmented reality?
Since the launch of the Apple Watch in 2015, we regularly hear about its possible use in business. However, despite our research, we did not find other examples in large companies. It is very likely that other large groups rely on connected watches to interact with their employees, but how many are there really? The App Store on the Watch is less full than that of the iPhone, which can inevitably be a bit of a deterrent. The arrival of new functions, such as the possibility of unlocking doors with the watch, could create new uses.
In the future, Volvo plans to extend this device to other markets. We imagine that if this event were to occur, and that its French employees also recovered Apple products, other car manufacturers would be tempted to imitate it.
Is the watch nevertheless a good bet for all companies? Not necessarily. On the other hand, what could cause a real digital earthquake is undoubtedly augmented reality. We asked Volvo about its interest in this technology and the company told us "to have it in mind, without having launched a project for the moment". In the future, we can easily imagine glasses going even further than the watch to communicate while doing something else. That's good, Apple would develop precisely.