Trouble ahead? Wearable technology in the workplace

No wearables allowed on premises, Image (c) 2014 WearableTechWatchThere could be trouble ahead for #wearabletech in the workplace. Just as employers start to get to grips with the huge problem of “Bring Your Own Device”, so “Bring Your Own Wearables” (or BYOW) will be the next corporate headache.

“You can’t come in here wearing that!” will be a war cry from reception as wearabletech pioneers are forced to check their devices at reception.

The most visible (forgive the pun) backlash against wearable technology has so far centered around Google Glass – with a Seattle cafe owner reportedly asking a customer to leave after he refused to take off Glass.

And if you ask a Glass pioneer, they’ll tell you one of the most frequently-asked questions is: “Are you recording me?”

This is just the start – in future, security-conscious firms will start asking visitors to surrender their smart wristbands and smartwatches, just as they prohibit the use of mobile phones in sensitive areas “for security reasons”. Security disclaimers are already popping up on computers provided for guest access in Sheraton hotels around the world – the terms of use state that the built-in camera and microphone may not be used to record someone else without their prior consent.

This is just going to snowball: The potential for data capture is increasing – and organizations already strive to keep all devices with a USB connection out of areas where an unscrupulous individual could tap into sensitive data. You can fit a lot of credit card numbers on a thumbnail-sized memory card within a smart wristband or smartwatch.

That’s not all. With some of the latest devices now featuring GPS (such as the Adidas watch and the LG Life Band), the potential for being able to pinpoint an individual’s location within a sensitive area, for example, the Pentagon – will be reason enough to see a ban on the bands. But don’t fret – it could be worse: US President Obama is said to be prohibited from using an iPhone.

Keeping tabs on your data

On the other side of the coin, wearable tech users have every reason to feel nervous about the information that their devices are potentially giving away. Almost three years ago, stories began to appear about users’ iPhones “watching them”, by tracking and reporting their location, while more recently, the Washington Post reported on how brick-and-mortar retailers are now using the “free” wifi for customers to track their in-store movements. Turns out that buying online might be the more private option, after all!

So imagine this: Your personal bio data – which is increasing in value, as documented in this post – is being captured and interrogated. This gives raise to a number of pretty scary questions – mostly related to actionable analytics, that is, raw data that can provide value when interrogated in the right way:

  • Will it still be possible to opt-out of employee wellness programs?
  • What about firms like Yahoo!, which have issued smart wristbands to all employees? Does the deal also include back-door access to individuals’ personal data? Perhaps Yahoo! CEO Marissa Meyer can tell us – she’s also on the board of smart wristband maker Jawbone
  • Could it be that in future, the amount of time you spend at your desk – and not wandering around with a piece of paper in your hand looking important – will be a decisive factor in your performance ranking?
  • Will call center managers be able to monitor operators’  heart-rate and blood pressure as well as tapping into their calls and seeing what’s on screen?
  • Forget clocking in and out, will fast food joints mandate that their janitors cover a minimum number of steps per day?
  • Instead of scanning barcodes when they’re on patrol, will security guards be tracked via smart wristbands containing GPS and pedometers?

These are some of the questions that will be asked on Wednesday next week (January 29, 2014), when WearableTechWatch author Simon Jones joins the SearchCIO tweet jam on wearable tech in the enterprise, as guest expert. Follow our discussion on Twitter @searchCIO from 3pm EST, 8pm GMT, 9pm CET and see Simon’s answers @MrNesjo. SearchCIO promises that TechTarget writers, editors and contributors will participate, joined by Twitter followers and others interested in the impact of the wearable device on the enterprise. Tweet you there.

/WTW

2 Responses to Trouble ahead? Wearable technology in the workplace

  1. […] There could be trouble ahead for #wearabletech in the workplace. Just as employers start to get to grips with the huge problem of "Bring Your Own Device", so "Bring Your Own Wearables" (or BYOW) wi…  […]

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