Apple Watch, Google Glass & Samsung Gear: Wearables at Work?

As with the first smartphones, IT departments are now faced with the task of managing wearables, in a corporate context. Here’s what to bare in mind.

Apple Watch for Business
Wearables, such as the Apple Watch, offer interesting deployment scenarios for companies.

What wearables are available?

AppleWatch, Google Glass & Android Gear: Wearable computers, also known as just wearables, are the secret stars of the Internet of Things (IOT). Although the sales figures don’t quite meet manufacturers’ expectations, smartwatches and fitness trackers are the perfect entry into this segment thanks to their lower prices.

Smart watches and fitness bracelets are certainly among the first devices that come to mind among wearables. But also Google Glass, Samsung VR, the Oculus or HTC Vive belong to this group. These wearables are usually equipped with miniature screens, cameras and motion sensors. Information can therefore be gathered and presented to the user. But also the creation and processing of data is possible with these devices.

Smart watches, such as the Apple Watch or Android’s SmartGear are wearables. They are mainly equipped with business features such as calendar and mail. An app catalog can also be used to select other somewhat more or somewhat less useful apps so that these devices can be flexibly adapted to different business situations.

Fitness trackers, the most well-known devices being from Garmin, TomTom or Fitbit, are also equipped with sensors. Their main task is to record information about their user. By monitoring vital functions and the activities of the wearer, these devices can also be used in a specialized form for medical purposes. This requires special sensors which, for example, monitor the blood glucose values of diabetics, help to transmit information about cardiac arrhythmias, and also provide electrical nerve impulses to assist in chronic pain relief.

Apps for Apple Watch & Co.

Despite the broad range of possible applications, wearables have not yet established themselves in the market as typical corporate devices. However, this does not mean that such devices cannot offer interesting scenarios for companies. In particular, the hands-free aspect, in so far that you don’t have to hold a device in your hands while working is an attractive idea. Information can be accessed through smart glasses without losing focus on the actual work. Workers, industrial climbers or technicians can be shown relevant information in their field of view and can still make use of both hands for their main tasks.

Wearables can also be used for data generation. For example, a built-in camera can gather data from the user’s environment and transmit it for reviewing. That this process can not only increase working speed, but also in individual cases even reduce the need for dangerous tasks or expensive business trips is of significant relevance.

Another area that benefits considerably from the use of wearables is the health sector. Data obtained helps with the diagnosis for both the consumer sector and professional medical care. Even a stay in a hospital can be shortened if the data required for treatment can be easily tracked and transmitted from the patient’s own home.

Challenges for IT

There are plenty of application scenarios and with an anticipated increase in the use of wearables in companies, the upcoming challenges that IT has to face are also evident.

The first focus is on data. For optimal use of the often non-autonomous wearables, the data must be stored locally on the device and in the worst case can leave the company premises together with the device. With appropriately managed smartphones and tablets, this is a non-issue. For most wearables, however, local data is stored in an unencrypted form.

Here it is the responsibility of the manufacturers to correct this problem. Individually adjustable security levels on the device must be available and at best, centrally manageable. Default settings should also offer the highest possible level of security, since many users don’t personally care all too much about security. Likewise, smartphones and tablets should also be used to implement known management features, such as remote wipe and remote lock for wearables.

In addition to locally stored data, there is also plenty of work to be done for wearables’ communication lines. For establishing contact, the devices have a permanently open Bluetooth connection, which represents a potential point of attack. While manufacturers can counteract this by using encrypted Bluetooth APIs, an enterprise’s IT department is also responsible. Monitoring and managing the network connections among the enterprise’s users can counteract abuse.

Wearables in businesses can offer added value and speed up many processes. The responsibility for improper use often lies with the companies themselves. The manufacturers of the wearables will most likely not be held liable. However, they have the task to make the devices ready for enterprise use by means of regular updates and the creation of manageable interfaces.