While Silicon Valley is busy innovating in wearables, Sin City is putting the new technology to an old use.
Floor managers in Las Vegas have recently put wearables to the test by pinging staff when a high-roller approaches. Alerted by a discreet buzz, employees can glance at their wrist and put a name to the face, making sure the VIP continues to feel like one.
"Little tweaks like that are not purely revenue generating, but they are part of the brand experience," said Jim Haviland, chief strategy officer at mobility management services firm Vox Mobile.
The example illustrates two emerging trends in what is likely to be the year of the wearable. First: Whether or not wearables immediately boost cash flow, they can be very good for customer service, productivity and safety. Second: Smart accessories will likely show up first where they generate the highest returns.
The gaming industry is just one sector targeting smaller groups of premium customers with VIP service. Another is transportation.
Virgin Atlantic Airways partnered with air-transport specialist SITA to outfit employees at London Heathrow Airport with Google Glass to access information about first-class customers.
Elsewhere, retailers are piloting wearables to help associates optimize their time and improve customer experience, said Haviland. The technology can help managers prioritize tasks by notifying employees that something in the store requires their attention, he said.
It can also be deployed as retailers increasingly integrate online and in-store shopping through so-called omnichannel marketing. Associates would be able to access information about customers, such as product preferences and clothing size to make shopping more efficient.
The benefit of outfitting associates with wearables may not be immediately clear, but Haviland said retail profit margins are so low that companies will seize any opportunity to improve the traditional point of sale—also known as the register—and make transactions throughout the store.
Early adopters are not limited to luxury and retail. According to surveys conducted by Vox, manufacturers were the most advanced users of wearables. That is in part because the form factor suits an industry in which workers need to keep their hands free.
"Field services and manufacturing I see as having even greater potential for higher returns than customer service at this point," Angela McIntyre, research director at Gartner, told CNBC.
Eyewear like Google Glass and the recently unveiled Microsoft HoloLens are catching on because the cost savings are apparent in several industries, particularly those in which companies send workers into remote areas, she said.