Wearable tech won’t fit in at work (without some alterations)

Everyone from Google to Salesforce.com wants to give us devices that cling to our bodies, but should they connect to the network?

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After accidentally smashing my smartphone last month, I ran smack dab into my first wearable tech crisis.

I wanted to go jogging. But all the songs on my phone were now digital dust. The charger for our iPod (already relegated to relic status in my household) was lost. So I dug out a dinosaur called the Sony Discman.

I actually ran around my neighbourhood wearing this thing. It weighed a ton. I heard Steve Jobs laughing at me from the great beyond.

So I was game to hear all about the awesomeness of today’s wearable technology during a panel at the recent Mesh conference in Toronto. Since the focus was wearable tech in the workplace, panelists discussed opportunities that wearables can create in the enterprise: to hire more effectively; service clients in a more personal, efficient way; and help their workers be healthier, safer and more productive.

And just days ago, Salesforce.com released its own developer’s kit for wearables. The social enterprise giant hopes to spark the creation of new apps that integrate its platform into wearable devices like Google Glass, Pebble watches and Fitbit wristbands.

Wearables are still such an emerging technology that both the Salesforce news and the Mesh panel raised just as many questions as they answered:

Privacy?: Medical data from wearable tech can motivate workers to stay healthy. But will it also be used to fire them or deny them insurance? “People are worried about employers digging into (their) personal space,” said Mesh panelist Paul Barter, VP of research at IT services and application firm T4G. “I think the biggest issue of the next 20 years is privacy.”

Safety?: Wearables can ensure workers follow safety procedures and stay alert during dangerous tasks. Could wearable tech like Google Glass also distract them during dangerous tasks?

Productivity?: Maybe you’re already wary of staff Web surfing at their desks. What happens when they can watch Game of Thrones on their contact lenses during meetings?

Security?: Your customer service reps could be wearing brainwave headsets in a few years. How will you cope if there’s no MDM solution for that?

Of course, the current wave of wearable tech innovation is also creating great opportunities for businesses. Toronto’s Bionym, maker of the Nymi security authentication wristband, is a partner in Salesforce’s aforementioned new developer’s kit for wearables.

Bionym president Andrew D’Souza was also on the Mesh panel. “Wearable technology is not going anywhere,” he declared. “It’s not a fad.”

It’s also raising some pretty weighty questions for IT managers still grappling with BYOD. Yet in a recent survey, 64 per cent of professionals say their firm has no interest in wearables and (this is key) no plan to deal with them.

If we’ve learned anything from BYOD, let’s stride into wearables by at least asking the right questions – and planning around them – now. If not, we’ll be running around with a burden way heavier than any Discman.

photo credit: kevinptrovini via photopin cc

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