The effect wearable devices will have on BYOD

IT departments had better be ready for some big changes right around the corner. A constantly evolving workplace would certainly not be unexplored territory for IT, but the approaching changes could turn the office environment on its head.

For years, many IT departments have had to struggle with the rise of bring your own device (BYOD) policies adopted by many organizations all over the world. As employees used their own personal devices for work, IT had to handle more complicated challenges to protect valuable business data and ensure all devices worked properly. That complex problem is likely to become much more challenging as employees start bringing wearable devices in to work.

With the recent announcement of the Apple Watch, along with the introduction of other wearable tech like Samsung’s Galaxy Gear and Google Glass, the wearable device market is poised to explode. While it’s estimated that about a million wearable devices will be sold in 2014, that number is predicted to increase to 300 million by 2018. IT workers better get prepared now, because wearable devices will likely be heading to the workplace sooner rather than later.

The task of managing BYOD was difficult enough for IT. The rise of smartphones and tablets created unique opportunities but also lead to more threats in an increasingly connected world. Wearable devices have the same potential to benefit the organization while including some of the same drawbacks.

The benefits of BYOD have been what business leaders have sought and largely attained. BYOD can make employees much more productive by increasing their efficiency while at work. Since workers are already familiar with their personal devices, they don’t have to struggle with learning a piece of technology that they have little to no experience with.

Smartphones and tablets can also greatly increase collaboration among employees, where access to vital systems and apps is only a few touches away. BYOD also has the potential to increase an employee’s level of satisfaction with his or her job since they’d have more freedom with what devices to use and how to use them.

Integrating wearable devices into the work environment can lead to many of these same benefits, creating a situation where company information is even more conveniently accessed and utilized. For example, repair workers can use smart glasses to follow step by step instructions to help them with more complex procedures.

The benefits might entice business leaders to use wearable devices, but the technology also introduces some drawbacks, the most pressing being increased security risks. IT workers have already had to spend countless hours testing and approving apps using mobile device management software. As wearable devices become more popular, new apps will be invented, forcing IT to go through that whole process once again.

IT departments will also have to create security controls for these new devices. Most organizations employ controls that include a remote lock or wipe feature, where devices that are lost or stolen can be locked or wiped to ensure the data contained inside is protected from unwanted visitors. These controls would need to be made for wearable technology.

There are also worries over how wearable devices may be used to steal information by employees within the company (like a worker secretly recording a confidential meeting). These questions will all need to be answered for businesses to remain secure as new technology is introduced.

Even if security is properly addressed, a number of significant barriers will likely keep businesses from widely using wearable devices in the immediate future. For now, many of these devices are expensive with prices out of the range of the average consumer. Top executives may use them, but making them available for low-level employees will probably not happen until prices come down.

Perhaps most concerning is the data cost that comes with using more mobile devices in the workplace. As more advanced gadgets make their way to the office, that increases the amount of data consumption, which can slow down a business’s network. Couple that with the security risks mentioned above, and widespread adoption of wearable devices under a BYOD policy may not happen for another year or so.

It took years for organizations to finally get a handle on BYOD when it came to smartphones and tablets. That era of BYOD created a revolutionary shift in the business world which increased productivity but introduced new security risks.

Wearable devices will likely spur the next revolution in the office. If businesses don’t want to be caught unprepared, now is the time to create the policies and procedures to deal with the influx of new technology. With the right plans in place, every business will be able to maximize the benefits while minimizing the drawbacks.

 

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