It's Time to Prepare for Wearable Technology
By Samuel Greengard
Over the last several years, more than a few CIOs have found themselves drowning in consumer devices and BYOD. The explosion of smartphones and tablets has turned organizations and IT upside down. While these devices and tools have created new opportunities, they've also unleashed huge challenges, both practical and in terms of security.
For better or worse, the genie is out of the proverbial bottle. Yet, what we've witnessed so far is just the beginning. Over the next decade, wearable technology will invade the enterprise and drive changes that make the introduction of today's Android phones and iPads look positively quaint. Already, Google Glass is creating a stir, partly because it represents a potential security threat to the enterprise.
A 2012 report from Juniper Research, Smart Wearable Devices: Fitness, Healthcare, Entertainment & Enterprise 2012-2017, predicts that the wearable devices market, including smart glasses and head-mounted displays, will surpass $1.5 billion by 2014, up from approximately $800 million last year. A more recent Jupiter research report predicts that the market will grow tenfold, reaching 150 million devices by 2018.
Expect other wearable devices, including electronic wristbands and sensors built into clothing, to appear at a workplace near you, too. Already, medical professionals, rescue teams, warehouse workers and others are starting to use devices that overlay images and relevant data on goggles. The rise of the Internet of Things will further fuel this trend. It's not difficult to imagine these tools altering a wide swath of industries.
For example, a repairperson could view a schematic diagram or read an article from a knowledge base while viewing and working on a motor or component. Clothing with embedded sensors could warn firefighters and HAZMAT teams when danger looms—or what type of conditions. The possibilities are limited only by imagination.
CIOs should begin planning for a wave of Bring Your Own Wearable Device systems, particularly as the likes of Google, Apple and Samsung introduce mainstream devices. As always, it's critical to separate hipness and hype from bottom-line benefits and real-world results. Organizations that begin planning for wearable devices, including addressing privacy and security concerns that will result from this technology, will be far better equipped to deal with the future.