Not all of the smart machines are going to take our jobs. Some might actually make our lives better and improve how we do our jobs. And unlike those pesky employment snatchers, we're going to invite them into our personal space -- clutching our wrists and perched on our heads. The real world hasn't yet been saturated with wearable technology, but rest assured -- it's coming.
For the second year in a row, the "big story" at the International CES show held this week in Las Vegas was wearables. Even if (like me) you weren't in attendance at this year's electro extravaganza, dispatchers from the frontline made this clear: Wearable technology is here to stay; research firm Gartner estimated it will be a $10 billion market by 2016.
Although there were still some clunkers, tech makers seemed to be getting the idea that form has to meet function -- at least part of the way -- in order for wearable technology to really take off. The idea is extrapolated in this week's lead Searchlight item from MIT Technology Review's Tom Simonite. Smart watches are getting sleeker and better at synchronizing information. There's even a nice, bejeweled bracelet embedded with a chip that will synch to your iPhone to inform you about the weather and recommend the proper SPF.
So wearables are becoming more fashion-forward -- so what? Well, the more attractive they become, the more you'll be seeing them, including in your office setting.
If you haven't yet figured out BYOD (bring your own device) as it pertains to things IT is generally familiar with (laptops, smartphones), the wearable wave could be a nightmare waiting to happen. Is there a plan or an inkling of a plan about what will happen when employees start showing up wearing additional digital points of entry on their person? And what's more, who will be in charge of how your company takes advantage of this new world? Instead of being asked what you're putting in the cloud, the new nagging question will be, "Where are you putting your sensors?"
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And beyond what employees bring in and where your company sees sensor-sticking, data-gathering opportunities, wearable technology has real potential to change how work gets done in the enterprise. In fact, as Forrester Research analyst JP Gownder pointed out in research released this week, for some enterprises that potential is already bearing out. To wit: Epson and Evena Medical created a healthcare application for Epson's Moverio smart glasses. It uses sensor technology and augmented reality to allow phlebotomists to see veins in a patient's arm. For workers who do highly technical repairs, glasses with streaming video are beginning to be used to show step-by-step instructions. Yeah, this could definitely be bigger than bellbottoms.
- At long last, that wearable technology looks good on you, and its specs are pretty impressive, too.
- As we continue barreling headlong into a future defined by the Internet of Things, it may already be too late to address the fact that -- like so many things cool and popular -- it's incredibly insecure.
- I'm not advocating malfeasance, but if you're going to carry out a scandal, at least use payphones. Or you know, don't use email. The lesson apparently can't be taught enough -- email is forever, kids.
- Barnes and Noble is trapped in the hardware business. The Nook is killing them, but it could potentially save them by becoming more like the (gulp) Kindle and other tablets.
- Is anyone surprised that Shapchat, the company that cavalierly scoffed at a $3 billion offer from Facebook and shrugged off its responsibility for the December data breach that affected 4.6 million users took until this week to offer a fix and a (lame) apology?
- No lewd selfies here! A new ephemeral messaging app called Confide is being pitched as the text-only Snapchat for grown-up professionals. Fear not, creepy uses for it have already been suggested.
Let us know what you think about the story; email Karen Goulart, senior features writer.
This was first published in January 2014