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Performance + Productivity
Contributor: Joshua Gliddon
Wearable tech brings new challenges for business IT

If it's worn on the body, it's going to be huge in 2014 - and that brings with it challenges, risks and rewards for the enterprise IT department.

It wasn’t so long ago that chatting to your colleagues via a Bluetooth headset seemed outlandish. Well, get ready for the next revolution. In 2014, if it’s worn on the body, it’s going to start making inroads into the enterprise. Enterprise IT managers need to get ready for the influx of wearables, from smart glasses such as Google Glass, to smart watches, like the much-prophesied Apple iWatch and Samsung’s Gear, which is already on the market.

According to the global business consultant Deloitte, millions of people will buy smart glasses this year, a number that will grow every consecutive year. “Smart glasses are the next stage in the roll-out of digital connected screens in our professional, social and private lives,” the company said in its Technology, Media and Telecommunications Predictions 2014.

The report also identified smart watches as being a critical trend in 2014, with approximately two million being sold throughout the year. However, the report also indicated smart watches won’t be as popular as smart glasses, simply because we are less used to checking something on our wrist than we were in past decades. “Today smart phones have assimilated most of the functions of an advanced wrist watch.”

Either way, however, they’re coming into the enterprise. So what should enterprise IT managers do about it? “Call it the next acronym,” says Rodney Gedda, senior analyst at Telsyte, a consulting firm. “It’s going to be BYOW, or bring your own wearable.”

Gedda said IT managers shouldn’t fight BYOW; just as they have embraced the ongoing trend for 2014, bring your own device (BYOD). “Allowing people to bring their own device, whether it’s a smartphone, tablet or wearable, is a step in encouraging employees to be entrepreneurial,” he noted.

BYOD is just the beginning

Along with bringing your own device or wearable, there’s going to be a strong trend of bringing your own app into the workplace. Whether it’s Twitter, Dropbox or Facebook, people are going to want to use it, and so enterprise managers need to investigate ways to embrace those apps while maintaining security.

One of the trends in terms of security, notes Gedda, is the move towards IT managers using “containerisation”, which carves out a space on the user’s mobile device for enterprise apps, yet leaves the individuals private content and applications alone. The advantage of containerisation is that the IT manager can encrypt and remotely wipe sensitive material, and allow the download of enterprise-specific apps, while allowing the user to have the device of their choice.

Big data is here – and it’s time to use it

Google chairman Eric Schmidt recently identified his key trends for 2014, and along with wearables and mobility, he picked big data as one of the key drivers for enterprise IT. Businesses will need to move past the hype and into the reality of big data this year, he said.

According to Telsyte’s Gedda, this means everything from medical records to the fuel consumption of delivery trucks. “As a fleet manager, for example, if you’re tracking fuel use, fleet utilisation and driver shifts, and you’re making changes to the business based on that, then you’re using big data. He counsels not be put off by the hype, but to look at the volumes of data your company is generating, and then find a way to mine it for rich insights that will give your business a leg-up on the competition.

Overall, security continues to be a major challenge for enterprise IT teams, along with making better use of data. The ‘bring your own everything’ trend means IT will need to find ways to support the influx, while keeping the business secure. A manager able to do that is going to put the business on a solid footing for the next few years, as well as ensure the happiness of employees.

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