Preparing for Wearables in the Workplace: What IT Teams Need to Know

As wearables enter the workplace, CIOs and their IT teams must prepare for the attendant cybersecurity challenges — and the opportunities to capture productivity gains.

Wearables are taking the tech industry by storm. According to Enterprise CIO, experts believe there will be 830 million wearable devices in use by 2020. With growth projected to exceed 15% in the next two years, the industry is predicted to reach $50 billion in five years or less. Some experts are predicting market valuations as high as $55 billion by 2022, which would mark a 424% increase from its $10.5 billion market value in 2017.

Of course, consumer technology tends to move faster than enterprise technology, but that doesn’t mean companies shouldn’t be paying attention to this steep growth trajectory. Already, 81% of CIOs believe that wearable technology could be their next competitive advantage. In fact, many companies (mostly medical enterprises) are already using these tools to improve productivity. Notable, a medical assistant start-up that offers hands-free patient record note-taking, just raised 13.5 million in Series A funding.

But medical companies aren’t the only organizations who stand to gain by adopting wearable technologies into their operational workflows. There are a number of distinct benefits to be had across the board, and enterprises are racing to be the first to take advantage.

What Wearables Can Offer Enterprises

One of the primary benefits of wearable technology is its ability to increase productivity by improving real-time employee communication. One company driving development on this front is Theatro. Theatro offers its customers (Cabela’s, Neiman Marcus, The Container Store) a hands-free SaaS mobile communication device for workers. These devices let employees link with pre-existing enterprise applications to improve their daily tasks. A Niemen’s fitting room associate can effortlessly call a floor associate to bring a new size for a customer, or a Cabela’s manager can redistribute shifts in real-time to optimize floor coverage.

Wearables can also be used to improve employee time management. Having visibility into employee distribution can help companies recognize and improve upon their most efficient practices. One company already taking advantage of this prospect is Hipaax, which has developed a product called the TaskWatch solution. These wearable devices are designed to record employee information and convert it into actionable and measurable tasks. Verizon, Red Hat, SAP, and Samsung are already on board as partners in hopes that this technology can improve employee efficiency.

Because companies have only just begun to adopt “bring your own wearables” (BYOW) policies, the impact of wearable data has yet to be fully realized. But signs are pointing in a positive direction. Seventy-six percent of businesses have reported improvements in performance since implementing these devices in the workplace. Some enterprises have even created enterprise wearable management (EWM) teams to manage their growing deployments.

The Challenges Wearables Pose

As the wearables trend begins to make its impact felt across the enterprise, CIOs and IT departments need to prepare to address some of the challenges that wearables will pose. There are already a number of ongoing conversations around cybersecurity and bandwidth concerns, and more and more enterprises are adding their voices to the fold.

Given that data creation and distribution represents one of the main benefits of wearables in the workplace, enterprises will likely have to address the attendant data storage and bandwidth demands. And with a host of new user endpoints to manage, companies also have to reckon with the fact that they’re simultaneously creating new attack vectors for cybercriminals to exploit.

As of today, many wearable devices store data somewhere on a cloud run by the manufacturer’s server. If those manufacturers go under, there is the risk of that data being sold to the highest bidder, often without a company’s consent. While consumers are at risk of losing personal data, enterprises could be at risk of losing highly sensitive proprietary information.

IT teams should also be prepared to manage the increased demand on their networks’ bandwidth. Although most wearable technologies pair with existing gadgets (as opposed to replacing them) network capacities are still going to see increased strain. With BYOW, some analysts have predicted that mobile traffic will increase by a whopping 2,200% over the next 3 years.

How to Prepare for Wearables in the Workplace

Although these are all legitimate concerns for enterprises, IT teams shouldn’t shy away. Yoon C. Lee, an SVP of Product Innovation at Samsung, says, “If the benefit [of wearables] is greater than the issue it brings with it, then those issues are meant to be resolved.”

CIOs thinking of adding wearables to their wired and wireless networks are going to need to expand their IT services and improve their infrastructure if they want to keep their organizations secure and their networks ahead of the curve. Adopting the appropriate measures will require significant time investments from IT teams already dealing with a host of other pressing issues.

One emerging tactic that could help in this regard is biometric cybersecurity — a method for user authentication that use gait analysis and verification against non-traditional biometric markers. CIOs can also consider how deception technology and other methods of cybersecurity might align with the deployment of enterprise-grade wearables.

With nearly three decades of experience, Turn-key Technologies (TTI) brings the expertise necessary to prepare enterprise networks for emerging technologies like wearables. TTI’s award-winning technicians can offer consultations, design strategies, building and testing, and complex installation for large enterprises looking to expand network security even as they push the envelope of innovation.

By Tony Ridzyowski

May 8, 2019

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