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CES to CIOs: Watch out for wearable technology

This Searchlight finds wearable technology looking and working better than ever. Plus: a harsh email lesson, the lure of ephemeral messaging and more.

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?"  

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.

Next Steps

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In a digital world, privacy in the workplace is a tangled Web

Steps to harnessing digital disruption

Dig Deeper on Digital business management

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How do you think wearable technology will impact the enterprise?
Saw the offerings at CES last week and it's really not improved dramatically since last year - it is a technology that is simply not desirable (less people wear watches now than 15 years ago, contact lenses and laser eye surgery reducing wearing of glasses) - it's like designing a technology to fit on an alarm clock when alarm clocks are rarely being bought any more (how many people these days have an alarm clock in every bedroom - used to be pretty much everyone did) .... it's an ongoing fad that has limited appeal to consumers, imho.
Agreed, Tim - it's kind of funny that the exciting new technology is...wristwatches. Designed by the same people who had those calculator watches growing up?
BYOD already presents challenges for support and security (IT needs to know HOW to secure any device (toy) a user decides he 'needs') So now, that user ha a laptop,, a smart phone, a home computer, a tablet and multiple 'wearables' accessing the corporate data. IT must secure the corporate data AND ensure compliance AND support connecting all of the above to the corporate network.
Excellent point, Kevin. Now is the time to start planning for the potential influx of these devices. Even if the fad fizzles, it's always better to be safe than sorry.  I'm also quite interested in how some companies will use (some already doing it) 'wearables' on their own terms, so to speak. By that I mean using things like glasses or goggles with which, say, a worker can watch a video on how to repair something while making said repair. 
It's all going to be very interesting, to say the least!

By the way, if you are available at 3 p.m. today (Jan 29) and are a Twitter user you might be interested in joining SearchCIO for a Tweet chat on the topic of wearables. I know that one thing we're going to be discussing is how they will figure into BYOD policies. If you follow this link, you'll find all the details about joining the chat: .   Hope you can make it and thanks for taking the time to comment!