Wearable Tech Offers Promise (and Potential Peril) for the Enterprise

Wearable technology is not just for consumers. CIOs who want to stay ahead of the curve need to start preparing for this new wave of gadgets today. Here's a look at the current state of wearables in the enterprise, along with some examples of how your company can begin to realize the technology's potential for business.

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As a CIO, Snodgrass says, "your job is to make the machine work and function better. There is an element of security there, but if you're not equipping your workers to go and be successful, move quickly, move fast, you're actually hurting the company and not helping. A data or security breach might get you fired, but not being able to implement the next generation of technology to enhance overall ROI and output of your worker base is, in my mind, a significantly more grievous error."

Preparing for Wearables in the Enterprise

With all the hype around wearables, it's important to remember that this is really just the infancy of the technology. Though it may be time to start thinking about how it will fit into your organization's strategy, it's not time to panic or to rush to implement new technology.

"Everyone feels like they missed mobile," Snodgrass says. "I don't think there's a large corporation or a corporate CIOs who says, 'Oh man, this mobile thing, we really nailed it!'"

Google Glass
Google Glass

When it comes to wearables, then, the first thing CIOs should do is give themselves a break. "Where they need to be pushing a lot on mobile, on the wearables side, we're still in the early days of form functionality and actual product," Snodgrass says. "Also, a lot of IT strategy with mobile will cross over pretty well with wearables. I see wearables as kind of a natural evolution for mobile."

That said, Snodgrass also suggests it's time to start investigating the potential of wearables for your organization and, possibly, reaching out to some wearables makers for proof of concepts. He says Wearable World is a good place for companies to start their research, by reaching out for assistance, attending one of the organization's various events or just monitoring its news feed.

"It's time to be proactive," Gartner's McIntyre says. "I speak with companies every week that are already planning pilots."

Gartner says enterprises interested in smartglasses should try to identify specific tasks that workers could do more efficiently with the devices, then bring to budget pilots for glasses (and related apps) in 2014.

GlassUp Smartglasses
GlassUp Smartglasses

CA's Michelsen also suggests that it's never too soon to start preparing and strategizing for the influx of wearables, though he admits it might be years before many CIOs or IT managers need to worry about it.

"You can never really time these things; they happen to you. But if you think it's going to happen, you have to get started," Michelsen says, adding that it's only a matter of time before wearable tech indeed makes its way into the enterprise.

Predictions on when exactly wearables will arrive in the enterprise vary, but wearables appear to represent a real opportunity for CIOs and IT departments looking to improve security, save money and increase organizational efficiency.

"If CIOs want to continue to manage and own IT spend around devices, they have got to adapt," Snodgrass says. "Otherwise, more and more of the budget is going to go to the CMO or the CSO, chief sales officer or chief revenue officer, because efficiency is key in this new world. Wearables are going to be able to deliver a significant amount of that efficiency."

AS

Al Sacco covers Mobile and Wireless for CIO.com. Follow Al on Twitter @ASacco. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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