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Wearables: The next wave of enterprise IoT?

As the internet of things evolves and grows more advanced, global organizations are increasingly turning to wearable devices for real-time data feedback and a competitive edge over their peers. By 2020, there could be as many as 600 million wearable devices connected to the internet (not to mention a more than four-fold increase in North America alone).

Unfortunately, few are truly prepared for the challenges that come with managing and securing these on-the-go IoT technologies. Let’s take a closer look as to why.

What’s the deal with wearables, anyway?

While Apple’s smartwatches have become the titan that dominates today’s wearable device market, businesses are implementing dozens of intelligent, on-the-go machines to learn more about employees and the everyday workplace than ever before. By successfully deploying wearable technology, never-before-seen insights and information can be uncovered as IoT sensor data is correlated to actual human behavior. Simply put, wearables make enterprise IoT mobile and equip employees with real-time data — whenever and wherever they need it most.

Things like times, durations and the proximity of one device or employee to another, when combined with demographic data, can shed light on previously unidentified workflow inefficiencies. If managed well, wearable devices can even help businesses find new markets and audiences, recruit talent and motivate their employees in fresh, exciting ways.

When integrated into a robust IoT management system, however, wearables unlock their true enterprise potential: the collection of an entirely new type of people-generated data. Soon, cutting-edge corporations will understand things they never could before about workers and customers alike; what they do every day, how healthy they are, where they go and even how well they feel.

Using this unprecedented level of visibility, businesses will be able to deliver messaging and services tailored to a specific person, location, activity and/or mood. For example, recruiters could use these insights to more accurately identify dissatisfied workers, while employers could use similar data to implement policy changes that improve worker satisfaction. These devices will also help reveal previously indiscernible data patterns and trends, enhancing customer relationships and satisfaction as a result.

The velocity with which IoT environments collect and communicate data is almost unbelievable. The sensors on a single Boeing aircraft, for example, can generate up to 20 terabytes of data every hour. As wearables increase the value of IoT systems and real-time data feedback, what do companies need to do to keep their traditional IT architectures from being exposed or overwhelmed?

Security shortcomings

It’s no secret that modern global enterprises need machine-generated data to power today’s real-time business processes. The problem with wearable device security is that many manufacturers never intended for them to become high-powered business tools; instead, these devices were designed to be competitively priced goods for the consumer market.

Unfortunately, that means many current workplace wearables lack the processing power and connectivity required to ensure private, secure enterprise data. Even software patches and updates for these devices can get tricky — legacy IT infrastructure typically approaches these technologies with a pieced-together solution that makes it difficult to upgrade software components individually.

Then there’s device manufacturer data collection, usage and ownership to consider … When IoT program managers and administrators dive into these manufacturers’ privacy policies, they’re often surprised to learn that the data stored on these devices isn’t owned by their employer, but by the wearable device maker(s) instead.

There’s also seldom enough attention paid to safeguarding wearable device data against future manufacturer policy changes. Unless specifically addressed, a wearables manufacturer could change data ownership or reporting conditions down the road, leaving even the most secure or compliant company’s data exposed to hackers and external threats.

Don’t take my word for it …

IoT data security is becoming a serious threat to today’s digital business landscape. According to the FBI, once an IoT device is compromised, cybercriminals can use it to attack other systems or networks, send spam emails, steal personal data, create hazardous work conditions or participate in distributed denial-of-service attacks.

Here are eight IoT/wearables safety tips, courtesy of the FBI:

  1. Change default usernames and passwords on device
  2. Isolate IoT devices onto their own protected network(s)
  3. Configure network firewalls to prevent traffic from unauthorized IP addresses
  4. Implement device manufacturer’s security recommendations and, if appropriate, turn off devices when not in use
  5. Use reputable information sources that specialize in cybersecurity analysis when reviewing and purchasing IoT devices
  6. Ensure device security patches are up to date
  7. Apply cybersecurity best practices when connecting devices to a wireless network
  8. Use a secure router with appropriate security and authentication practices

Moving forward, businesses will need to rely on entirely new systems and technologies to protect IoT data. As wearables skyrocket in popularity, it’s important for enterprise mobility efforts to do their homework and consider each potential solution’s security capabilities before procurement, not after the fact.

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.

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