The future of wearable technology isn’t one-size-fits-all

Dec 02, 2014

sueporemba

BYOD, IT

IT, Trends

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A big trend for 2015

Wearable technology is on the cusp of becoming the “next big thing.” According to a recent PwC survey, 20 percent of Americans already own some sort of wearable device, and that number is expected to rise rapidly in the near future.

For most people, wearable technology means the fitness tracker that interacts with smartphone apps, but, inevitably, wearables are making headway in the business world, too. PwC predicts that media and entertainment industries will see the biggest rate of adoption, stating “where there’s a screen, there’s an opportunity.” At the same time, health and retail industries are also expected to adopt wearables to perform functions like monitoring a patient’s health or expediting a customer’s checkout.

Of course, there is not going to be a one-size-fits-all approach to wearable technology, and it will be up to individual organizations to understand which devices will make the most business sense.

Wearables as a gateway to better collaboration

It’s hard to predict which wearables will find traction because the technology is still very early in its development, says Tom Bice from Novell. “With that in mind, devices that enable users to do multiple types of work will be more quickly adopted by users and the enterprise because the value will be greater,” he stated. “Simple, single-purpose devices will be limited by what they do and therefore see limited, specialized deployment. Wearable tech’s greatest enterprise potential is the possibility for collaboration and multitasking, so there is no place for devices that only perform one function.”

We’re already seeing some indications of how wearable technology can fit into various industries. For example, even though Google Glass has had some initial struggles to find a market, other hands-free internet-connected devices are already being tested by chefs in kitchens, doctors in hospitals and security guards in Dubai, according to Internet of Things expert Gregory Kennedy.

Bice adds that healthcare is already using wearable tech for specific purposes: tracking heart issues, detecting blood pressures, tracking fitness, etc. This trend will continue to grow. As more consumers rely on wearable devices, practitioners will also rely on them to help track patient data and progress.

“Another industry where wearables could be primed for rapid growth is retail,” Bice said. “From allowing customers to self-guide via smart glasses (e.g. finding products in store) and self-checkout opportunities, wearable technology could easily play a significant role in improving the customer experience and driving more sales.”

Cause for IT concern

However, wearable technology joins a growing list of personally owned devices that straddle the line between personal and professional. As the PwC survey warned, “Businesses need to have a game plan in place to act on the competitive opportunity, while taking note of the challenges.”

“BYO wearable devices open up a whole Pandora’s box, of issues related to the privacy and the security of personal data,” said IT security researcher Daniel Humphries of Software Advice. “Wearable devices are inseparable from the Internet of Things, and I’ve never met an IT security expert who wasn’t deeply concerned about how underdeveloped IoT security is.”

In fact, in a recent survey conducted by Software Advice, only 39 percent of companies have Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies in place. Adding yet another layer of new devices could spell disaster for a company’s network.

Organizations should be thinking now about how they are managing BYOD and mobile device issues, Bice pointed out. “If they haven’t already thought about the hardware, software, data and access issues involved with MDM and BYOD, they will be one step further behind as employees bring wearable devices into the office. Putting strategies in place now for these issues will give them a foundation from which to manage wearables, rather than having to reinvent the wheel with each new device.”

Once the strategy is in place, IT departments and business leaders can figure out how wearables fit into the security strategy. That could help determine which wearable devices make the best fit with the company’s goals.

Sue Poremba
Post by Sue Poremba

Sue Poremba is a security and technology writer based in central Pennsylvania.

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