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Wearables could compromise corporate data

Matt Hamblen | July 18, 2016
Like smartphones did years ago, smartwatches could create loss of sensitive workplace and personal data

Enterprise mobility management vendors like BlackBerry and others are creating software that applies specifically to wearables and require protections like passcodes. But so far, the productivity gains of using smartwatches and other wearables in the enterprise are still unproven; this has so far held back the security risk, Hochmuth noted.

Aside from consumer devices like the Apple Watch being used at work, the bigger productivity opportunities for enterprises come from specialized and industrial-focused applications, like augmented reality glasses or wearable data-input devices or sensors. "In industries such as medical, oil and gas, or law enforcement, these specialized devices will interact with sensitive data and the devices will be strictly controlled and managed," he added. "Strong authentication and even geo-fencing are some of the approaches businesses are considering to secure these types of devices."

Typically, such specialized wearable devices will be owned and under direct control of an organization, so a user doesn't take them home or have a chance to use them for personal tasks.

Several EMM vendors offer tools that manage wearables along with other computers like laptops, although it isn't clear the EMM tools are being applied by employers to wearables in any significant way. BlackBerry, MobileIron, Citrix and AirWatch are among the vendors offering mobile device management tools that govern various devices, including some wearable devices.

Such software could be used to both protect sensitive corporate data and data about individual workers -- including their health and whereabouts.

So far, the biggest consumer wearable segment is the fitness band, popularized by Fitbit and others. The demand for smartwatches hasn't reached the expectations of two years ago, but most analysts still predict a rosy future for smartwatch sales, albeit at a slower pace.

Despite some muted warnings by U.S. government officials to consumers about sharing their fitness data with vendors of wearable devices and others, one recent survey shows that consumers are less concerned about wearable privacy and security than they were two years ago.

That online survey of 1,000 U.S. residents, conducted in March by PricewaterhouseCoopers International (PWC), said: "One might have thought that privacy would be the biggest hurdle facing wearable technology today. Not only is this not true, but concerns around privacy have actually lessened for...smartwatches and glasses."

The PWC survey also found that 67% of consumers said their company should pay for their wearable, partly with the expectation that it could be used to increase workplace productivity. The report says 75 million wearables will permeate the workplace by 2020 and quotes Gartner that by 2018, some 2 million employees will be required to wear a health and fitness tracking device as a condition of employment.

 

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