You wear it well: But businesses need wearables to be smart, secure and compliant


While the rise of fashionable lifestyle wearable devices – tracking your movement, monitoring your heartbeat and even reporting on your patterns of sleep – has captured plenty of headlines and media attention, the business applications for wearables have largely escaped the hype.

Instead, in the business world, the focus has been on the predicted growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the need for more machine to machine (M2M) communications. Well, guess what, business wearables figure prominently into the predicted exponential growth of the IoT.  And make no mistake, this “Thing” is growing rapidly. 

Consider this: Gartner predicts that some 30 billion things will be connected by 2020 and that industries such as healthcare, retail and transportation will lead the way. In just five years, it says, the IoT market will be worth almost $2 trillion.

The rise of enterprise mobility management (EMM) solutions means most companies now have security in place to allow company-supplied laptops and smart devices to connect to their networks from a variety of locations and connections. Moreover, the BYOD model has also seen companies put policies in place to safeguard their network when non-company supplied equipment makes a connection.

EMM solutions securely manage a range of mobile devices, monitor their status, and ensure that the latest security updates are in place and that it is safe to give network access to the devices concerned. Advanced solutions allow enterprises to control that range of devices even when employees own them, and also create business applications and download them directly to employees’ devices.  

In many cases, these business apps are stored on the device inside a secure container that manages network access and provides safe connection to company systems and data. Secure container-based deployments also ensure that applications are rendered correctly on the device – whether it is an Apple iOS, Android, Windows or Blackberry-based model.  In a nutshell, EMM pretty much guarantees security, control and compliance over our time-tested mobile devices, mobile apps and the data consumed by those mobile apps.

So what does EMM have to do with wearables? Virtually all those advanced policies and techniques associated with an EMM platform will now need to be replicated in the business wearables market. But while the applications for business wearables all involve sending and receiving of data, the applications already being deployed are diverse – from high level, “white glove” customer service, to patient care in the health services.

Virgin Atlantic, for example, has equipped some of its Heathrow Airport staff with smart glasses and watches. By simply looking at passengers, staff can quickly bring up personal data and greet them by name. That data transfer involves securely accessing files and retrieving information to match the captured face with the passport pictures on file.

In healthcare, wearables are going to demand a lot more out of an EMM solution. For this sector, wearables are not just about the staff but also the patients. Healthcare workers must securely retrieve, handle and transport patient data no matter where it resides! The ability of an EMM solution to provide end-to-end encryption of the data being transferred, regardless of the type of connection, is a key consideration.

Wearables might also have to be kept disconnected from the outside world to comply with a variety of regulations. For example, while surgeons at Duke Medical Center in the U.S. are using Google Glass to film certain procedures to upload and share for training purposes;  at other times, doctors need to keep their Glass device disconnected from the Internet to prevent patient data and images from being routinely uploaded to the cloud.

And when it comes to wearables, enterprises too will need to stop corporate data from leaking from employee devices -- such as, but not limited to -- smartglasses. For example, EMM solutions will have to be “smart” enough to identify when to stop capturing video or visual data.

Furthermore, a key difference between smartphones and wearables is user familiarity. By now most people know not to open a suspicious looking email on their PC or click on a link in an unsolicited text message on their phone; but will they know what a threat looks like on their wearable? Probably not, and it won’t help that the user interface (UI) on their wearable will most likely be a small display.

A compact UI simply can’t share as much information about, say, a nearby device that wants to pair which makes it easier to hide malicious intent.  Smart EMM solutions mitigate those kinds of threats - for example, by providing AES 256-bit encryption to make it extremely difficult for a hacker to access information on the device.

As wearables become as common as smartphones, no organization can afford to ignore the security of the data on these devices. Enterprises, large and small, need to start creating the policies, acquiring the skills, and building the management tools to cope with an explosion of devices connected to their own networks.

Smart wearables can’t handle the technology stack for end to end encryption and user privacy as compared to smartphones or tablets. Thus, increasingly, EMM vendors are going to have to innovate to deploy lighter versions of their technologies on wearables without compromising security, control, compliance and user privacy.

In closing, organisations need to start now, because make no mistake – they will need the same degree of security, control, compliance and management for wearables connected to their networks, as they do for the desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones that their staff are using today. in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their use-cases? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data Expo and Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam and explore the future of enterprise technology.

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