Is Your Organization Ready for BYOW?

By Mike Elgan Print this article Print
wearable technology

The bring-your-own-wearable (BYOW) movement won’t be like the smartphone revolution. It will be much faster and much less gradual—and it will start this year.

Until IT can provide serious management of wearable devices, the best way to look at the wearables category is to forget about the devices and focus on the apps and the connectivity.

In the interim, it’s pointless and inefficient to attempt to taxonomize the different kinds of wearables and craft policies and procedures for each type. For now, it’s far better to lump the lot of these devices in with smartphones and think only about what the apps can do (just as we think about what smartphone apps can do) and what they can connect to.

From a network perspective, wearables currently can't do anything that a smartphone can’t do. Some wearables can connect to the Internet via mobile broadband with a Bluetooth connection, while others can connect directly via WiFi. Some can take pictures and video, record audio, capture location, and send and receive SMS, email and other messages. Mostly, they offer the user a full set or a subset of smartphone notifications.

Places and events that prohibit smartphone photography or audio recording should also prohibit wearable photography and audio. Company policies need to be amended to specify wearable devices in this way. Whatever rules exist for smartphones and WiFi connectivity also can be applied to wearable devices that can connect via WiFi.

There’s one exception to the treat-it-like-a-smartphone rule: support. At this stage in the wearables market, it’s reasonable for companies to issue a blanket refusal to support any wearable brought in by employees. BYOW devices are neither mandated nor likely to be necessary. Therefore, while these devices can’t be kept out of the office, they shouldn’t be supported by IT until the infrastructure exists to do so in a rational and efficient way.

The most important fact in all this is that BYOW won’t be like the smartphone revolution. It will be much faster and much less gradual—and it will start this year.

It’s best to get policies and procedures in place immediately and communicate them to all workers. Once the interim system exists, you can figure out what solutions exist to manage wearables in a more systematic way. For now, they’re just smartphone peripherals.

This article was originally published on 2014-06-24

Mike Elgan, a Baseline contributing writer, is a Silicon Valley-based columnist, writer, speaker and blogger. Go here for more: http://elgan.com/.

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