Workplace Wearables: Questions Executives Should Be Asking

By Ellen Raineri, PhD
Published May 2016  

As technology advances, not only are employees bringing their own devices to work, they are also bringing their own wearables. Accordingly, in today’s workplaces, we often see BYOD (bring your own device) joined by WYOD (wear your own device), or BYOW (bring your own wearable). For example, employees and customers are bringing their own tablets and smartphones as well as wearing their own smartwatches and smartglasses. Additionally, employers are providing wearables to employees. These technology devices offer benefits but also bring risks. Provided below is an overview of benefits and risks, and key questions that executives should be asking.

Workplace Wearables Benefits

Wearables such as smartwatches can be used to enhance Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications. For example, smartglasses can connect to MS Dynamics CRM such that marketing or sales employees can have immediate and convenient access to customers’ information (Cognizant, 2014). In another example, remote training can be accomplished when attendees wear virtual reality glasses. 

Within academia, Stanford quarterbacks use STRIVR Labs’ virtual reality headsets and software to participate in a virtual reality football training. Some positive results include better and quicker decision making (Brown, 2015). The military has also used this technology by having soldiers wear virtual reality headsets to create a simulate battlefield (Parking, 2015). 

In a final example, smartglasses can be used within warehouses for pick-and-pack functions. Warehouse workers can be hands-free, while receiving new order information and item locations. Workers can also perform bar code scanning through vison or voice. Last, through the use of smartglasses, management can also track employees which is beneficial for productivity and safety (Friedman, 2015).

Workplace Wearables Risks

Workplaces are exposed to numerous security risks. In HP Fortify’s study of smartwatches, it discovered that all of the smartwatches evaluated contained some type of vulnerabilities associated with encryption, firmware updates, or cloud connectivity (HP, 2014). 

Next, consider some hypothetical risk examples. A vulnerability can exist when an employee connects his smartwatch to his tablet which accesses the company’s server. Consider an example in which a smartwatch or smartglasses are used to capture a colleague’s confidential watercooler conversation that is later used for backstabbing, cyber bullying, or legal evidence. In another example, smartglasses might be used for espionage as an employee photographs confidential information that is shared with the competition. Next, a customer on a plant tour might also use smartglasses to photograph confidential information. Last, employees or customers might use smartglasses to engage in shoulder surfing to capture another’s PIN or password.

Questions to Consider

Based upon these few examples of wearables’ benefits and risks, responsible executives will ask strategic questions such as:

  • What type of wearables will we permit employees to bring to work? 
  • Do we have appropriate policies regarding wearables that employees bring into our organization?
  • Do we have appropriate policies for the wearables that our organization provides to employees?
  • Do we permit our customers to have wearables within our organization? If so, are our policies appropriate for customers? 
  • What security steps do we take if there is theft of a workplace wearable?
  • Does the external vulnerability assessment include wearables?
  • Is our security training adequate in regard to wearables?
  • As we consider purchases for organizational wearables, do we also assess associated risks that can negatively impact our organization, customers, or employees?
  • Are there any ethical or privacy issues with our selected organizational wearables?
  • Have we considered issues that may arise when attempting to integrate wearables with other technology such as legacy systems?

References

Brown, D. (2015, September 9). Virtual reality for QBs: Stanford football at the forefront. The Mercury News. Retrieved from http://www.mercurynews.com/49ers/ci_28784441/virtual-reality-qbs-stanford-football-at-forefront

Cognizant. (2014). Wearable devise: The next big thing in CRM. Retrieved from  http://www.cognizant.com/InsightsWhitepapers/wearable-devices-the-next-big-thing-in-crm-codex984.pdf

Friedman, E, (2015, May 18). Wearable technology by industry: Vol. 6 – warehousing and distribution 

HP. (2015, July 22). HP study reveals smart watches vulnerable to attacks. Retrieved from http://www8.hp.com/us/en/hp-news/press-release.html?id=2037386#.VvwxfPkrKq4

Parkin, S. (2015, December 31). How VR is training the perfect soldier. Retrieved from http://www.wareable.com/vr/how-vr-is-training-the-perfect-soldier-1757

Ellen Raineri, PhD, is a faculty member at Kaplan University. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent the view of Kaplan University.



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