Is enterprise IT ready for Bring Your Own Wearables?

A recent IDC Canada event looked at how employees may demand smartwatches and other new forms of hardware be connected to the network

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Compared to the scads of American and British data regularly released on technology adoption, Canadian research is a rarer thing to behold. So I eagerly devoured the latest homegrown stats on wearable technology from IDC Canada.

These findings are as fresh as a fall pumpkin pie, based on surveys conducted in September. The respondents are IT and line of business decision makers at Canadian businesses with more than 100 employees.

The main takeaway is that consumers have bought into this wearable tech thing in a big way, but the enterprise still isn’t sold on it. Only four per cent of the Canadian businesses surveyed currently use wearables; just 10 per cent plan to deploy them in the next two years.

What gives, enterprise naysayers?

When asked to name the biggest inhibitors to deploying wearable tech, the top answer (with 39 per cent of all responses) was ‘our organization has no need for wearables.’ In another part of the survey, 81 per cent said they ‘have no plans to deploy wearables because their value must be proven.’ When asked to name the benefits of wearables, 37 per cent said they have ‘no perceived value’ whatsoever, making it the most popular response by far.

The enterprise just isn’t convinced wearables are a good fit for business, said Emily Taylor, IDC Canada’s senior wearables analyst.

“They need to have the value proven a little bit more to them,” Taylor said while presenting her findings at a recent Information Technology Association of Canada event in Toronto. “So we need to solidify that benefit case within industries.”

The survey hints at other reasons for IT’s reluctance to slip into wearables. App availability is one factor; only two per cent of wearable apps developed in 2015 will target the enterprise market. Cost is yet another concern. Thirty-five per cent of respondents cited ‘cost of the devices’ as a top inhibitor to wearables deployment, while 25 per cent blamed ‘cost of developing a custom app or solution.’

The harsh reality, however, is that none of these reasons or issues may make any difference to the end result. Whether IT wants to deploy wearables in the enterprise or not, its employees are going to bring them into the workplace anyway. It’s simply a matter of time.

“(Wearable tech) is a market that’s arguably being driven on the consumer side,” Taylor said. She added that just as the consumerization of IT trend drove (forced?) the adoption of smartphones, tablets and mobile apps in the enterprise, the current popularity of wearables in the consumer space – your FitBits, your FuelBands, your Apple Watches – will drive their eventual deployment in the workplace as well.

As if to prove Taylor’s point, someone in the audience stood up to make a comment during the Q&A session after her presentation. This man noted that a lot of the staff at his company have wearable fitness trackers and they wear them, of course, even during work hours. He wondered aloud if all these workers will start asking their employers to offer some sort of company app, integrated solution or benefits plan involving these devices.

The answer is yes, if recent history repeats itself. IT has been here before with bring-your-own-device. The question now is, will it be better prepared for bring-your-own-wearable?

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