May 28 2014

Get Ready for the Coming Wearable Evolution — in the Office

Wearable devices are not replacing anything, they’re just a new addition to our mobile portfolio.

BizTech had the opportunity to talk with Thomas Barnett, Cisco Systems futurist and director of Cisco service provider thought leadership marketing. He shared a few thoughts on the emerging potential for IT wearables.

BizTech: At present, there seem to be very few instances of wearables for business users despite potential productivity gains. Why is this?

Barnett: The impact of wearable technology largely remains a wild card in terms of impact on the network and IT. However, the impact of wearables in the IT world is absolutely a conversation worth having. We are projecting strong global growth, from 22 million wearable devices in 2013 increasing to 177 million wearable devices by 2018.

The major impact with wearable devices is that those are net new adds to the network. When people get a smartphone, for example, it may be replacing a basic feature phone or a smartphone that they already had.

Wearable devices are not replacing anything. They’re a new addition to our mobile portfolio. While the traffic today from these wearable devices may be very small — we’re projecting only 13 percent of those wearable devices will have embedded cellular connectivity by 2018 — they’re a wild card in what could be the next phase of significant traffic growth on mobile networks.

We did find that in a single day of using Google Glass to download video, download audio and browse the web, we generated 249 megabytes of traffic. That could come out to more than 7 gigabytes of traffic in a month. Those numbers are for a high-end user, but as Google Glass becomes generally available, and if there is significant adoption, it could be a major traffic driver that IT departments need to be aware of.

With the Cisco Mobile VNI [Visual Networking Index] showing that there will be more traffic offloaded from cellular networks [on to Wi-Fi] than remain on cellular networks by 2018, IT will need to consider the wireless infrastructure and policies needed to address this influx of traffic on business networks.

Yes, determining access, authorization and security for a whole host of new wearable devices may be a short-term barrier to adoption in some sectors. But that is already being overcome in some verticals.

BizTech: How do you expect that wearables will be used predominantly?

Barnett: Our findings indicate that the bring-your-own-device phenomenon will continue, and we don’t see any slowing of the new types, shapes and sizes of mobile devices being adopted on the network. This applies to wearable devices as well.

The change that we see in devices and how many different options consumers and business users have for devices will be a challenge that IT managers have to address now and in the future, in terms of access, authentication and authorization to use virtual private network services and content.

Our projections indicate large increases in data usage of wearables, as in our Google Glass case study. Use may vary across business types, but the data use and security concerns that must be addressed for all mobile technologies — including the wearables subset of machine-to-machine technologies — remain the same.

As we look at how these devices grow the number of connections and the data to which we have access, this is all part of the Internet of Everything. You can’t manage what you can’t measure. Wearable devices are one way in which information will be finding you at the right place, at the right time, based on what your needs are and based on what you’re doing.

Specifically, multifunction smart watches, health monitors, asset trackers and video-enabled wearables have a good likelihood of greater growth and adoption beyond their current nascent levels.

BizTech: How can businesses start to prepare for this wearable future today?

Barnett: Security for mobile networks should continue to be a top priority for IT managers. As more and more people connect with a plethora of different devices and the applications connecting them, a top priority will continue to be securing not only confidential or proprietary information but also securing transactions and other consumer or private data on the network.

Enterprises can review and analyze the processes and procedures they perform today and consider new ways to capture important data, get things done and share information. Once things are captured or available via a database or network of some sort, all types of analysis and potentially actionable recommendations could be made to improve productivity, streamline processes or simply track things more closely to identify trends.


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