Employees to wear their own device in 2014

'Personal wearable devices are the next frontier' of BYOD, says Telsyte analyst Rodney Gedda

IT managers should take note of the plethora of new wearable devices popping up at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. They just might show up in the workplace.

The trend known as bring your own device (BYOD) is expected to expand in 2014 to include employees wearing smart watches and glasses like Google Glass at work, a trend that some are calling wear your own device (WYOD).

WYOD “is a fun acronym”, but it’s really just an extension of bring your own device (BYOD), Telsyte analyst Rodney Gedda told Computerworld Australia. “Personal wearable devices are the next frontier.”

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It’s certain that more employees will bring wearable computers into the office this year compared to last, Gedda said. “Will they be in businesses at a mass scale? Probably not.”

“At this point in time it’s probably best to collate it in” with the enterprise’s BYOD or bring your own applications (BYOA) strategies, he said.

Ovum analyst Kevin Noonan agreed that businesses must prepare for wearable devices coming into the workplace.

"Wearable devices have now moved from the fringes to the mainstream, and we're now starting to see devices move from something that was odd and different to something that we're likely to see a normal person in the work place bring along."

"There's no point trying to hold back the ocean. We have to finally admit defeat on this one. There is no point trying to stop people trying to bring technology into the workplace, because we'll just send the practice underground."

In a Gartner report dated 30 October, analyst Angela McIntyre said IT managers should establish a BYOD policy for wearables “because employees are likely to wear their personal smart glasses in the workplace starting in 2014”.

In addition, IT managers should plan pilots, update policies and provide new apps and content so that the business can best take advantage of potential benefits of smart glasses, she said.

Rob Livingstone, a former CIO who is now runs an IT advisory practice in Sydney, has said that enterprises must face the reality that wearable devices will be brought into the workplace.

“Banning the use of new and emerging technologies is not likely to be effective. However, the evolution of your enterprise information security policies, together with the appropriate eduction of all working within the organisation, whether employee, contractor, outsource provider, or any other party for that matter should be the starting point,” he wrote in a recent column for <I>CSO Australia</I>.

Gedda agreed that a good first step for an IT manager is to educate employees about wearable devices and what guidelines apply to their use in the workplace. “Like any new technology it’s a challenge but it’s also an opportunity,” he said.

The photo and video capabilities of Google Glass could be useful for someone who works in a tight space and needs to document what they are doing, he said. However, they could also present a privacy or security risk if used to film other employees without permission or to snap pictures of sensitive data, he said.

To the extent they are used to check work email or access other data, wearable devices should be viewed as another communication endpoint that may need to be managed by the business, he said.

IT leaders should view wearable computing as “a tool for business”, according to Karen Scott Davie, general manager for the Caravel Group and a member of the CIO Executive Council advisory board.

“You have to look at where it will add the most value,” she said. “From a CIO’s perspective, it really depends on the industry that their business is in.”

Wearable devices—and glasses in particular—may take off most quickly in businesses where it is useful to access information in a hands-free manner, she said.

BYOD is not merely an IT Issue to be solved by the IT department, Livingstone said.

“The IT department has little to no real control over who brings what consumer technologies to the workplace, whether in their carry-case, wrist or pocket,” he wrote.

“This is an organisational issue requiring an organisational response. Executive accountability needs to be assigned, and not just to the CIO or IT Manager.”

While Noonan said the IT department should encourage best practices with wearable devices, he said the HR section must "step up to these issues."

"It's a question of people acting in a professional manner and using these devices in a professional manner. It's not up to the IT section to enforce these devices."

Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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