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Why Wearable Devices Will Mean More BYOD
Wearable Tech World Feature Article
August 22, 2013
Why Wearable Devices Will Mean More BYOD

With Google (News - Alert) Glass, iWatch, Misfit, Fitbit and TheNextBit, there is a pending boom coming in the consumer world of wearable devices that will have first and second order impacts on the enterprise. The obvious impact is happening already, consumers are buying devices like the Fitbit and syncing them with their smartphone and wearing them to work. The more tracking and personal information that gets stored on the smartphone, the less likely most employees will feel comfortable pairing their wearable with a company owned smartphone even if it is allowed. This could even prolong the practice of schlepping two devices – something most employees loath.

Beyond the simple activity trackers is a wave of health monitoring type wearables that record blood sugar, EKG and other personal information. For employees who use these kinds of wearables to collect personal health data, it’s very unlikely they will want to use them with a company-issued device, nor does the company want to deal with the potential privacy issues, further accelerating the BYOD trend.

Many of the new and coming wearables will also dictate the type of smartphone that is required to enable the most features or even work at all. Google Glass is going to work best with a high-end Android, iWatch no doubt will favor the iPhone (News - Alert), and some devices won't work at all without the specified smartphone. If the wearable device is important enough, some users will switch smartphones vs. the other way around. Eventually, these peripheral devices will drive the purchase direction of smartphones and platforms. No one wants to carry two smartphones forever, and these users will start influencing IT decisions as to what devices to support in a BYOD program. 

Once these new wearable devices start showing up at the office, people will find new ways to put some of them to work – just like the iPad did a few years back. Besides doing their own work on the iPad, executives who brought them into the office soon discovered that the iPad was a great tool for enabling the sales force in the field or for board meetings, and they started ordering them as company-issued devices. Many also recognized the value and productivity gains of allowing the entire company to BYOD.

IT managers should get ahead of the coming wave. But just allowing BYOD is not the answer, because that means opening up risks for corporate information and company networks. For example, a user opening a document attachment from native e-mail can result in the document in a personal Dropbox (News - Alert) account and syncing to a home PC completely out of IT's control. IT must provide a way to mitigate the risk, while enabling users to take advantage of the powerful benefits wearable devices could potentially provide.

Rolling out BYOD safely means having a formal program as well as solutions like Mobile App Management (MAM), which can manage the apps and data on a device and allow IT to selectively wipe the company data if an employee leaves the company or loses the device. Some MAM solutions, like Citrix XenMobile, also provide a secure e-mail to safely handle attachments and keep them out of personal dropbox apps as well as a secure browser that provides selective access to resources inside the firewall. MAMs can also provide a unified corporate app store that makes it easy for employees to access all their approved company apps. In some cases, those apps actually come from the Apple (News - Alert) App Store with embedded MDX code that makes the app manageable by IT. However, to the user it's a simple task of clicking on the apps they need from a unified store managed by IT. 

New devices like Google Glass are likely to start being used for work in many scenarios that can benefit from hands-free and heads up operation. Take, for example, a surgeon viewing critical health stats without looking away, or an airplane mechanic having access to every manual and procedure while working. Then there are the more conventional uses, like business messages and photo and videos of whiteboard sessions and more. How many times did we all want an instant recall of a great brainstorming session? Google Glass may be more of a niche product initially, but wearables like a smartwatch are likely to go mainstream much sooner.

The rumored iWatch will find many business related uses like messages, meeting notifications, dual factor authentication, silent messaging and more. Wouldn't it be great if you could non-discreetly notify a colleague to speed up or shut up? Just send them a coded vibration to their iWatch. Telling time might be the last thing you use the iWatch for. All of these scenarios also include managing the appropriate apps connected to the device and to protect company IP where appropriate – more reasons to look at a comprehensive enterprise mobility management system. 

The consumerization of IT trend will soon broaden beyond smartphones and tablets into a new array of wearable devices. Get ahead of the curve and start wearing your device to work!

Edited by Rachel Ramsey

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