Big worries about wearables in the workplace

  • Wearables have giant computing power and carry big security risks.
  • Education is the security measure that could have the biggest impact.
  • Employees must learn to maximize usefulness and minimize risk.

Just when IT pros felt like they had control around the tablets and smartphone devices that comprised the “D” in BYOD, employees are introducing a new class of devices to the workplace: wearables. These small devices can include anything from smart watches to fitness-focused wristbands to eyewear such as Google Glass. Wearables have giant computing power and can carry big security risks.

Big data meets wearable devices

If wearables have not made their way into your organization, they soon will. If the proper procedures and tools are put into place early, there can be significant benefits to their use, making employees more efficient, productive, engaged, and collaborative. These benefits may result both from the direct use of devices like Google Glass, as well as from analysis of data gleaned from the devices.
A recent Harvard Business Review article explored the spread of what author H. James Wilson calls, “physiolytics, the practice of linking wearable computing devices with data analysis and quantified feedback to improve performance.” Physiolytics, states the article, grew out of two trends: the wave of innovation in wearable technologies and big data.

Consider security, performance, and portability

It’s a brave new world that organizations may or may not be ready for. In any case, there are initiatives that companies need to consider as they prepare for the wearable onslaught—whether that means proactively planning for their integration in organizational practices or actively restricting their use (at least for the time being).

Antoine Leboyer, CEO of applications and services monitoring provider GSX Solutions, offers guidance to companies dealing with the burgeoning population of personal portable devices. He said there are two basic concerns that need to be addressed: “One is about security, as critical data will reside on these devices. The other issue is about performance, as these devices have a high visibility and furthermore will be used in priority by senior employees who may lack some IT self-serving skills.”

An additional concern is the fact that personal devices are, by nature, portable. Loss or theft is a very real possibility, and this is a huge concern considering that these devices can not only store sensitive data but can connect to the Internet. There are security considerations that organizations need to have in place to protect against these threats. These include data loss prevention systems, mobile device management systems (including the ability to proactively lock or wipe a personal device), and password management systems.

“Education” is the security measure with perhaps the biggest impact. Employees need to know just how useful and dangerous wearable computers can be. To gain the most from these devices, employees must be trained in how to maximize the former and mitigate the latter.

Scott Koegler is an independent business writer and the author of this blog. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.

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