wearable computing means BYOD policies will need updating

Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies are set to be tested by the arrival Google Glass and other wearable computing technology in the enterprise. While most companies have got a grip on users bringing their own smartphones and tablets into the office, how will they deal with the flood of wearable computing that analysts believe could change our relationship to computers?

ABI Research predicts that 485 million wearable computing devices could ship annually by 2018. Google Glass and the recent flood of smart watches, including the Apple iWatch, Samsung Galaxy  Gear, Sony SmartWatch, the Pebble Smart Watch and the Jawbone Up, are all competing for your Christmas dollars. And even if Gartner is right in saying that the smart watch market may be a little overblown, no doubt an increasing number of early adopters bringing them into the office in January.

health and fitness

In fact, wearable computing is already well-established in a number of markets. One of the most active of these is the fitness market, where a surprisingly large number of runners already own some sort of GPS enabled tracking devices. The latest of these can connect automatically to the network to upload the latest workout or download music for the activity.

Some of the innovation being seen in this area is startling. As a runner, one of my personal favorites is the temporary tattoo that shows you when you are about to “hit the wall”. The device detects lactate levels in your sweat and if they rise too rapidly, it is a clear sign that you have breached your lactate threshold and will struggle to maintain your pace. I have also recently blogged about a connected glucose measuring device that diabetic cyclists were using in a race between Brussels and Barcelona.

improving business processes

So why should businesses care about wearable devices? Well, there are two reasons they should pay close attention. The first is because wearable computing can bring some significant business advantage. Gartner says that Google Glass could save the field services industry $1 billion per year. They would be particularly useful in heavy industry and highly technical fields such as aviation, where the glasses could be used for very effective on-the-job training or support. Google Glass has even been trialed in operating theaters by a cardiothoracic surgeon looking to get data on the fly while he is operating.

The second reason is that businesses need to update their bring-your-own-device strategy to cope with users bringing their own smart devices into work. How will these devices interact with the network and do they open up organizations to any additional risk?

Unlike the first phase of BYOD (which was often a replacement or new device), these devices will typically be in addition to users’ existing smart phones and will be often set up to sync with them. Enterprises will be hard-pressed to ban them, particularly as the devices become ever more part of the user – perhaps even implanted in the body! This means corporate policy will have to keep step.

Interestingly, this whole new front in BYOD comes hot on the heels of reports that corporate-owned and bought smartphones are experiencing a revival. Strategy Analytics reports corporate purchases of smart phones increased quarter-on-quarter in 2013, and recently Peugeot deployed 10,000 of the old corporate favorite Blackberry, with RIM’s management apparently redoubling its efforts to focus on the enterprise market.

But if wearable devices become part of the mainstream, enterprises simply won’t be able to keep them out.

Have you updated your BYOD policy to address wearable computing? And have you identified any business benefits they could bring your organization?

The ten steps to successful BYOx outlined in this white paper still holds true  for these new devices:

  1. keep it simple. Implement a basic program that can scale and be added to along the way
  2. accept BYOx and enterprise mobility as part of the new workplace reality
  3. understand employee wishes to use devices that are familiar to them
  4. take the lead by working with HR to implement BYOx policies and practices
  5. work with users to establish guidelines and buy-in at the earliest opportunity
  6. develop a central company platform on which users can register devices and gain access to approved apps to help control data and security risk
  7. be proactive at all times, and engage with business units and employees as much as possible
  8. manage application development and deployment by partnering internally with business units
  9. take control: BYOx is presently driven by end-user employees. Make it company-led and manage the issue
  10. trust your employees: a “social help desk” can ease the burden on the IT department and secure workforce buy-in to and development of your BYOx processes.

Read more on BYOx in the Orange white paper.


image © frog - Fotolia.com

Anthony Plewes

After a Masters in Computer Science, I decided that I preferred writing about IT rather than programming. My 20-year writing career has taken me to Hong Kong and London where I've edited and written for IT, business and electronics publications. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Stewart Baines where I continue to write about a range of topics such as unified communications, cloud computing and enterprise applications.