Enterprise IT/Server

Is your company ready for wearable tech?

Server Joe Curtis

05:05, September 2 2013


Firms already using BYOD will be more prepared for the arrival of Glass and smartwatches.

With BYOD already changing the way many businesses operate you could be forgiven for thinking that wearable technology is just the latest innovation in a long line of mobile devices.

Tablets, smartphones and laptops are commonly used inside and outside of offices around the world, but IT solutions firm Ipswitch believes the advent of Google Glass and the smartwatch herald new challenges for businesses - from wireless network overload to corporate espionage.

Google Glass is already making waves in the UK, with the Department of Transport threatening to ban the device from being used by drivers when it launches in 2014, but other industries see benefits to utilising the technology.

Startup Augmedix believes Glass will help doctors cut down on the amount of time they spend on admin tasks rather than helping patients.

And Ipswitch's director of product management, Daniel Okine, tells CBR he expects Glass to become a popular tool among surgeons.

"Companies with physical interaction with their environment doing complex and dangerous activities , like surgeons, they're going to be using this type of technology to be more precise," he says.

"The value of reducing the margin of error will motivate those companies to use the devices."

Stephen Demianyk, Ipswitch's UK channel manager, agrees, adding: "It's going to be the next big thing. The fact you're hands free in certain occupations, that has its advantages. When you're on site and have to view documents and diagrams that will be so convenient."

But Glass's capabilities could also be the very reason many companies are too scared to adopt it, says Demianyk.

"The opportunities for corporate espionage are out there," he believes. "It's all going into Mission Impossible territory. One of the biggest threats of Google Glass is to personal privacy and corporate privacy."

The pair says that the solution depends on how companies police who is allowed to use Glass-esque devices and smartwatches and what level of data they are able to access.

"IT managers must be pulling their hair out thinking 'how on Earth am I going to keep a handle on this?' It needs to be really tied down in policies and procedures," says Demianyk.

But the advantages gained by using such devices might lead to an explosion in the number of people using a company's wireless network.

"BYOD was a convenience when it started but it's now a necessity for certain personnel," adds Demianyk.

"The most common type of device is the smartphone at the moment but now we're talking about having 15 to 20 types of devices connecting."

Apple's smartwatch is set to drop in 2014, while Pebble's own device is on the market and Samsung's Galaxy Gear is due for release this month.

There are numerous other smartwatches, including the Kickstarter-funded Omate Truesmart, and the numbers are expected to reach 36m shipments a year by 2018, according to Juniper Research.

The sheer number and variety of smartwatches connecting at work means firms will need to upgrade their wireless networks to avoid them becoming overloaded.

"They will either need to scale up or scale out," says Okine. "Either upgrade the infrastructure or buy bigger systems."

But with many smartwatches being built with the aim of supporting, not replacing, smartphones or tablets, companies need to beware of interconnectivity too.

The devices are likely to use Bluetooth to connect to laptops or other mobile devices to sync or share data.

That brings with it the threat of viruses spreading across devices, as well as secure information being transferred to personal devices.

"Endpoint protection providers need to beef up their software," says Okine. "But while SMBs could afford endpoint protection software, to beef up security to prevent viruses and stuff, that will be very costly."

However, it could prove a crucial measure to protect your company's data.

Detecting endpoints for high traffic flow could reveal interconnecting devices and thus a security risk, say the Ipswitch security experts.

"We need to be able to pinpoint what the devices are and whether they are mobile," explains Demianyk. "To do that you look at the individuals and the traffic they're using."

Businesses which already have a BYOD policy in place are better-placed to adapt to wearable technology, but while it represents a potential security risk, Ipswitch believes "push will come to shove" and the majority of companies will make use of the new wave of mobile devices - even with the expensive necessity of security upgrades.

"It has huge potential," says Demianyk. "Over the next two or three years businesses are really going to adopt this, but it doesn't come without its challenges of course."

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