If you looked around your office today, it’s unlikely that any of your colleagues will be wearing technology in the modern “wearable” sense. If they are, they are ahead of the curve. Despite this slow pick-up, it’s hard to deny that the trend for wearable technology is set to grow with products such as Google Glass and Galaxy Gear increasingly likely to feature in our lives.
Often from the corporate point of view, new technology is perceived negatively and feared in many circumstances. The view is that if it’s new it’s likely to disrupt the way we work and potentially pose a security risk as well. However as the technology matures and people start to use wearable devices, enterprise IT will start to understand how they can utilise the highly contextual and capable devices.
As with iPhones and iPads the greater the exposure that these devices have in the work place, the greater the interest in granting corporate access to work apps and email on them will be.
Crucially, wearable technology will give greater freedom to employees to accomplish what they need, when they need, driving productivity. This boils down to easy access to data via wearables, which leads to significant benefits for business productivity. The same was true of smartphones, which consumers took to heart and subsequently demonstrated how useful they could be to the enterprise.
Security is typically the first concern for the IT department when a new tool is being used to both create and access data. To start with, organisations won’t know how to utilise or manage the new devices while ensuring that the data accessed on it is secure.
Organisations which have recently implemented a mobile device management solution will find that this process was a bigger hill to climb for corporate security, as it was the first instance where IT had to manage devices that didn’t belong to them. As a result when wearables do go mainstream, the concerns around securing them in the workplace will have been allayed somewhat as processes will already be in place for managing personal devices in the workplace.
The greater the number of devices people use for corporate work, the higher the risk there is for potential data loss. Some wearable devices may not have as many layers of data protection, such as encryption, as other personal devices. As such the IT department will need to consider the risks of different types of wearable technologies and put in place security and education policies that match those risks.
Getting Fashion Ready
Businesses should have already considered how to manage BYOD and mobile device issues, but for those that haven’t they will be that one step further behind as wearables emerge over the coming years in the workplace. By putting the strategies in place today to cope with these issues will provide a foundation from which those organisations can manage wearables, rather than having to start from scratch all over again.
Once a management strategy is in place for the wearables, the IT teams need to keep a careful eye on developments in the market to figure out what devices will work best within that organisation. The early adopters of this technology should not distract the IT department, they are looking for the best gadget which isn’t necessarily the technology that can benefit business operations.
Frequently the initial use cases of a technology don’t turn out to be how a business will benefit from it. For example, the real value of smartphones wasn’t being able to access email on the go, but the impact of being able to access an organisation’s productivity apps that are used to gather sales data, for example.
For the IT team, it certainly can’t do any harm for people in the department to think about the potential for these technologies as they appear. But there needs to be an acknowledgement that the process of IT adapting to wearables will be an ongoing one, that will evolve as the technology develops and adoption increases.
As we have seen with the mobility trend, the key is to get ahead of the curve, and for wearables this will be no different. The organisations that saw the emergence of the BYOD trends early were the ones best able to address them in a timely and secure manner. Those that waited longer are still playing catch-up.
Ultimately, all employees should now be viewed as a walking datacentre, with a variety of networked devices that will over time include several wearables. To prepare for this the following four key points need to be adhered to:
- Understand that you will have to support some forms of wearables in the future.
- Continue to monitor the consumer market so you appreciate when wearables become key employee gadgets.
- Put a security model in place based upon levels of trust and data accessibility that can apply to wearables as easily as to smartphones and tablets.
- Establish a security and management architecture that gives your organisation a centralised way to set policies and manage devices.
While you are unlikely to see wearable devices in your office today, it will only be a short time before they are adopted by greater numbers of consumers and enter the workplace. IT departments should be as prepared as possible for this by getting their house in order now and closely monitoring the latest wearable trends.