Prepare for workplace wearables

by Mark Rowe

With London Fashion Week around the corner, pundits are already predicting that, this year, wearable technology will hit the catwalk, writes Alessandro Porro, VP of International, at the IT and network security product company Ipswitch.

However, from way-out couture technology to the imminent launch of the Apple Watch, any wearable technology that connects to a corporate network can cause security and infrastructure issues and needs to be planned for. Corporately owned wearable technology and personal devices are both on the increase in the workplace. Wearables have unique advantages that businesses can and will take advantage of.

For example, they might not be your typical catwalk model, but mobile warehouse workers can use wearables as mobility and tracking devices; staff in a shop can check shelves quickly; technicians can use smart glasses to look at a set of schematics to perform repairs, instead of having to spend time wading through a manual; builders can check out piping plans, and the list goes on. Wearables take BYOD to a completely new level. Wear Your Own Device (WYOD) is about to take off, big time. With Apple entering the market, I expect that by the middle of 2015, wearable technology will be pretty commonplace in every business and every organisation across the UK.

However, businesses just don’t seem to be taking wearable technology seriously enough. Very few are prepared for the impact that these devices will have on the corporate network. Even the healthcare sector, the much-hailed early adopter of wearable technology, is not prepared for Apple throwing its might behind the wearable device. A recent Freedom of Information Act (FoI) request by Ipswitch revealed that when asked specifically about managing wearable technology entering the workplace – from Google Glass to smart watches – 83 percent of NHS trusts admitted to having no strategy in place. The request also found that despite having feature rich tool sets, only 38 percent of trusts across the UK are able to differentiate between wired and wireless devices on their network.

This is not an issue that is exclusive to the NHS. The FoI request also discovered that the UK’s universities were also vastly under prepared for the upcoming influx of wearable devices connecting to their network in 2015. It revealed that when asked about managing wearable technology entering UK universities, 76 percent admitted to having no plan in place. This is an alarming statistic as the vast majority (81pc) of universities already manage 200 devices or more. Over half (54 per cent) of universities manage over 1000 devices.

A carefully managed network is key to prevent network bandwidth issues and protect the company from security risks, data leaks, hacking and viruses. It is vital businesses put in a wearables policy and best practice so staff are clear on where wearables fit into the company agenda – and at the same time provide both the necessary systems and training. IT departments need to be ready now – wearables are set to become a standard business tool before it impacts on network performance and security.

Security is paramount. The threat posed by wearable devices is not as obvious as the one possessed by smartphones and tablets. Network managers need to make sure they know what devices are logging into the network when and have clear security procedures in place that employees fully understand. Businesses and organisations need to plan ahead for WYOD before it impacts on network performance and security in the coming year. The sheer volume of additional devices connecting to the network is likely to slow down performance. The main thing that businesses need to remember is that policy development and planning for network improvements needs to take place sooner rather than later. Before it gets out of control.

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