Oct 01 2014

How Will Wearables Affect Enterprise Mobility Management Strategies?

Organizations can’t afford to just wing it with the next wave of mobility on the horizon.

Fitness trackers may be leading the charge in the wearables revolution, but smart glasses and smart watches aren’t far behind. There is real potential to increase efficiency for many industries, but there are also legitimate concerns about privacy and security. It’s time for organizations to start planning how wearable technology will fit into the overall enterprise mobility management (EMM) plans.

A recent Deloitte study estimates that the market for wearables will hit $3 billion this year, based on projected sales of 10 million units. Some analysts are even more optimistic. For example, IDC’s study Worldwide Wearable Computing Device 2014–2018 Forecast and Analysis suggests the market will reach 19.2 million units in 2014 and rise to 111.9 million units by 2018. Adding that many devices into the mobile mix will certainly require thoughtful planning and strategy.

The Business Case for Wearables

Compelling use cases are still elusive in the consumer market, but enterprises have been quick to grasp the potential of wearables. At the shallow end, wearables can enhance productivity by keeping employees connected. Going to a deeper level, hands-free devices that respond to voice commands and employ built-in cameras will transform the workplace for many professionals.

In the healthcare industry, medical staff can log patients and check medication history by scanning QR codes or NFC tags on IDs. Any interactions can be recorded to ensure oversight and compliance. Surgeons have already been testing out Google Glass to record videos for teaching purposes and to check data, such as a patient’s vital signs during surgery, without having to ask a nurse or look at a monitor.

Using smart glasses to register guests or check in passengers could conceivably boost efficiency in many different scenarios, as we’ve seen with usage by Virgin Atlantic at Heathrow airport.

And that’s just scratching the surface. Imagine warehouse workers getting directions to their target destinations, where augmented reality can be used to highlight the relevant crates. Think about auto mechanics accessing schematics, scanning parts for signs of trouble and automatically logging orders for repairs, all while under a vehicle.

As wearable hardware begins to mature, purpose-built apps will unleash yet more possibilities.

How Do We Address Privacy and Security with Wearables?

There has already been a public backlash against the unfettered use of Google Glass, and many people are concerned about being surreptitiously recorded with the cameras. This privacy issue really begins to loom when you imagine employees in a corporate environment, where confidential documents are accessible on screens or may lay out in the open.

This first wave of wearable devices lacks authentication protocols, so anyone could pick up a device and use it. There are also sensitive situations and locations where it’s not desirable to have cameras. As wearables become part of the enterprise, whether they are trialed and employed on a companywide basis or they sneak in through the backdoor as the next wave of BYOD, privacy must be handled carefully.

The rise of smartphones and tablets has forced enterprises to implement EMM strategies. The BYOD trend necessitated a one-size-fits-all approach that is not focused on the hardware but instead seeks to secure the data through the software, regardless of the point of entry. It’s about creating secure containers, where enterprise applications can be kept separate from personal apps.

Security comes through encryption and user authentication. IT departments retain oversight and can remotely wipe data if necessary.

It’s going to take serious thought to integrate wearable technology into an existing EMM program, but the same focus on used to provide access to secure mobile workspaces via any wireless device will easily work with wearables.

The ideal solution is going to be all-inclusive, enabling you to configure and administer desktops, laptops, smartphones, tablets and wearables from a central location. Examples of market-proven solutions with security safeguards include Fujitsu’s Managed Mobile, powered by Citrix XenMobile Enterprise. The EMM tool stakes out security like a deer hunter in a blind with its rooting and jailbreak detection. It also offers pre-enrollment device checks, geo-fencing and tracking, context-aware policies, app blacklist/whitelist and full or selective remote wiping of content across all device types, including wearables.

Convenience and Usability Take Priority

The increased efficiency that wearables can offer is largely based on the convenience factor, and it’s vital that EMM policies don’t negate that. Privacy and security are clearly important, but if the user experience is sacrificed, employees are likely to revolt.

Working to separate the business value from the hype always requires practical trials, and wearables are no exception. Observe and analyze how your employees use wearable technology in a limited environment, and find out how your EMM strategy copes. To some extent, the BYOD trend took IT departments by surprise. The advantage with wearables is that we can see them coming. Let’s not miss the opportunity to get ahead of the next wave in mobility.