What It Will Take to Manage Wearables at Work

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    Wearables are coming to work. Indeed, wearables are at work. As with the group’s older cousin, bring your own device (BYOD), folks are simply going to use what works for them in their private lives as they go about their vocational duties. There are differences between how BYOD and wearables at work will permeate the office and loading dock, but they’ll both be used.

    This will make for some frustrated workers – and bosses. Research from Ericsson says that 25 percent of people who are first using wearables are disappointed. Ten percent abandon their devices and a third of those – about 3 percent of the total users, in other words – do so within two weeks of first powering up. The survey said that 21 percent said their wearables were too limited and focused too much on fitness and health functions, according to Computerworld.

    The research looked at the overall universe of wearable users. To a great extent, this is indistinguishable from those who use the devices at work, however. They are now wholly overlapping universes.

    Employees have specific concerns. Security, of course, is a huge issue for all enterprise technologies and wearables are no exception. InformationWeek this week posted a slideshow with a number of suggestions for securing wearables and otherwise protecting the business from their use. To a great extent, the suggestions mirror other enterprise tools and technologies. That isn’t a surprise: Just because something is worn doesn’t make it structurally different from other technologies.

    Still, it is a good list. Some highlights: Security staffs should prepare for wearables, make sure that corporate policies and procedures cover the new platforms, understand the legalities that may stem from wearables, and consider getting cyber insurance.

    Another largely unexplored area to be considered in the wearables at work debate involves how appropriate business-sponsored initiatives may be. It is one thing if a person brings his or her Fitbit to the office. It is another if the business makes it mandatory – and collects all the data that is produced. The Wall Street Journal posted a very interesting roundtable on the topic of wearable computer data.

    Various participants said that wearables at work will grow, that the concept is a bit Orwellian, that they can protect the health and safety of employees, and that there is a great potential for abuse. The last area, which was addressed by Edward McNicholas, co-leader of privacy, data security and information law at law firm Sidley Austin LLP, is particularly intriguing. Said McNicholas:

    The rubber will hit the road when we have artificial intelligence analyzing the massive data sets that will be created by the information coming from these wearable devices. To my mind, we should not deny ourselves the potential benefits of these technologies by banning them, but we must keep a critical eye on particular implementations of such technologies in order to ensure that they do not become new ways of discriminating against people based on any number of illegal and illicit criteria.

    Wearables at work is an interesting development. Clearly, it is something new. By the same token, however, it is not structurally different from any other consumer application: It is hardware and software. The bottom line, though, is that legal, security and IT staffs must pay a lot of attention.

    Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at [email protected] and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.


    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk is a long-time IT and telecom journalist. His coverage areas include the IoT, artificial intelligence, artificial intelligence, drones, 3D printing LTE and 5G, SDN, NFV, net neutrality, municipal broadband, unified communications and business continuity/disaster recovery. Weinschenk has written about wireless and phone companies, cable operators and their vendor ecosystems. He also has written about alternative energy and runs a website, The Daily Music Break, as a hobby.

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