Ask The Experts: Wearable Tech In the Office

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Our readers get help from IBM on how to integrate wearable tech without being intrusive

Advertorial: TechWeekEurope is launching a new article series: Ask The Experts. In this series, engineers and developers answer questions asked by members of the TechClub, a free community for our readers.

For the second edition, we invited IBM staff to tell us about the challenges of integrating wearable technology devices in business.

google glass cinema large wearableWearables versus privacy?

At some point, wearable computing devices must be added to enterprise mobility management, but these operate at a more personal level, including physical monitoring. At what point does enterprise mobility management cross the line and become an intrusion on employee privacy?

(IT manager in a retail company)

Ah – a nice easy one – the ethical question.Firstly, let’s be clear wearable devices are the latest consumer trend but they have been within the enterprise for a while. These devices traditionally have been simpler and usually focused on just one or two functions, such as barcode readers or helmets with visors that can show a screen of content applicable to the job in hand.

Because of this it’s not the fact that the device is wearable that changes its status with regard to EMM (Enterprise Mobility Management), it’s the altered, usually simplified operating systems and the kind of data these new consumer devices are collecting – in an enterprise device it is often desirable to collect data on the physical state of the wearer – emergency services for example.

The issue about what data should be collected is also one that has already had to be faced: for example if you enable staff to use personal devices for business, is it acceptable to monitor internet usage from that device or to access data on its geographical location? For most organisations the answer is ‘no’and so these things are not enabled in the EMM tool – however this does require a trust relationship between employer and staff, hopefully something that exists already.

I think this approach highlights a key tenet of EMM, especially around employee-owned devices – the purpose is to protect corporate data and access – so the steps taken should focus on that, an ability to lock and/or wipe the device, enforcing data encryption, establishing secure channel communication and not on the collection of data from the device. An increasingly common approach is the use of secure ‘containers’- everything corporate fits inside and is fully managed/controlled. Of course if the device is supplied by the enterprise then the contract is different and largely speaking they should be free to manage and monitor it as they see fit and staff should be aware of this.

So there’s my point of view – essentially on a personally owned device used for business the line should be drawn based on that which is necessary to protect corporate data and acces.

 Answer provided by Simon Gale, CTO workplace services UKI IBM. Look out for the third part of our advertorial series ‘Ask the Experts’ next Monday!

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