Wearable Device Management

By Tom Bice, VP of Product Marketing, Novell — June 08, 2014

Twenty years ago, there were concerns over Internet access in the workplace, but as time progressed, IT and business executives realized that the benefits far outweighed the risks—as long as proper security measures were taken .
 
Then smartphones took over business, and since then, we’ve seen BYOD and all the components of security versus productivity that come along with it, float up to the enterprise level; next up: wearable technology. 
 
As companies focus on increasing employee productivity and enabling an office-anywhere, anytime workforce, they will continue to enable new technologies that can help reach better business goals.
 
There are many potential opportunities across various business departments to leverage personal wearable devices for business purposes. Some applied scenarios include:

  • Customer Service: Customer experience is more important than ever; whether online or in-store. Wearables in store would allow employees to remain heads up and hands free. For example, bar scanner gloves and eyeglasses loaded with product information would give them  the opportunity to discuss/compare products and then check out customers on the spot, regardless of location in a large department store.

  • Human Resources & Office Management: Augmented reality holds a lot of potential in the office—from knowing who’s in the office, what conference rooms are open, calendaring, etc. Future HR managers could offer new employees a personalized, guided tour with commentary and details, for example.

  • Research & Development: As wearable technology adoption becomes more widespread, we’ll see enhanced hands-free collaboration and productivity tools. If wearables can integrate with existing enterprise collaboration tools, an engineer could throw on wearable eyeglasses to share a product in a development lab with their colleagues across the country.

Hardware vs. Software Development
The enterprise possibilities will continue to develop as the technology does, however, the current ecosystem does not support its existence. This situation is similar to the mobile phone market; a significant amount of the tools we rely on today for mobile productivity did not exist when the first iPhone hit the market—the environment and application software had to be developed.
 
While many consumers are impressed by the wearable gadget and hardware prototypes, only those with keen software and engaging capabilities will survive at the enterprise level. Already, we have seen a wave of wearable fitness bracelets come and go. Forrester analyst Julie Ask has been quoted promoting the importance of data-friendly and engaging software for wearable technology. 
 
We may start to see the shift from companies investing in devices to developing the apps that support them. For example, startup Pocket is proposing an app that lets smartwatch wearers drop notifications and email alerts into a folder via the watch, for later review on his or her smartphone.
 
Wearable Device Management?
The more people adopt wearable technology, the more they will demand that they receive access to corporate-related items on them, such as productivity apps and email access. That wave will encourage IT to determine a device management approach.
 
However, thanks to mobile device management (MDM), some precedence has been set. IT will be forced to provide maintenance on wearable devices, mainly from a risk perspective. Once that is managed, they will eventually begin providing support for productivity functions. But rather than “WDM” — wearable device management — we will more than likely make a shift to simply device management that incorporates all mobile endpoints, from smartphones and tablets to wearables .
 
From a security perspective, highly personalized devices will be able to recognize when the wrong user is accessing data or devices. Biometrics—whether it is a retina scan, heart rate, or finger scan—will help IT manage the users accessing data on wearable devices.
 
Enterprise technology is evolving at a rapid pace to boost productivity, efficiency and ROI. Overall, wearable technology has the potential to drive more agile, intuitive business processes as an extension of its user, but the ecosystem must evolve to make this happen. 

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