The Future of Wearable Technology in the Enterprise Industry
The wearable technology industry is booming with smartwatches, fitness bands, heart monitors, smart glasses, smart shirts, and various other devices that augment our realities, track our activities, or pinpoint our positions in both time and space. There seems to be no end to the array of products that promise to digitally enhance, measure, and document our lives. As the number and complexity of these devices grows, so does the need to monitor and manage their activities and the data they produce. The task of monitoring and managing these devices, while simple to state, is not as simple to implement.
Enterprises have a huge number of devices to deal with and that number grows daily. These days most employees carry a mobile phone and a laptop computer with them so that they can stay connected from any location. Some have more than those two standard devices in the form of tablet computers such as the iPad or the HP Slate. Now add wearables into the mix. You're talking about the possibility of having three to five or more devices per employee. Even if you have 50 employees, that's 250 devices to monitor and manage, instead of the standard 50 to 100 laptops and mobile phones.
And that only accounts for end user devices. Add IP cameras, security systems, environmental monitors, servers, switches, routers, firewalls, load balancers, IP phones, and printers into your network and you may well have 1,000 devices to monitor and manage. Wearables in the enterprise may well push your network's complexity to the next level.
We refer to these devices as "smart" or "connected", but their intelligence is currently limited to a few primary functions, such as measuring your global position, your heart rate, or number of steps taken during a day and they're generally connected via Bluetooth to a mobile phone that hosts an associated app for the device. The device relays information to its tethered partner's app in real time.
Because of the number and diversity of such devices, there's no generic method for monitoring or management. Mobile device management (MDM) suites either can approve or deny the use of such devices through app restriction, but management of the device and its flow of data onto and off of the connected mobile phone remain unchecked. And a generic monitoring solution doesn't yet exist. These gaps pose an interesting dilemma for enterprises: Allow wearables without the possibility of enrollment, data monitoring, service monitoring, or management capability or deny their use in business.
Remote monitoring and management of wearables will be essential going forward in time, as wearables become part of the enterprise workplace. Security and acceptable use policies will have to be drafted and put into place as employees introduce devices that could compromise security and privacy. The responsibility lies first with device manufacturers to ensure that their devices are manageable by allowing agent installation or supplying something other than a simple app for data collection to which software developers can connect to for monitoring, management, and policy enforcement.