5 things to do before wearables hit your network

INDUSTRY INSIGHT

5 things to do before wearables show up

The Apple Watch ushered in a new wave of personal technology that employees are carrying into the workplace. And industry analysts are predicting rapid growth: A recent report from Business Insider predicts the global wearables market will grow at a compound annual rate of 35 percent over the next five years, reaching 148 million units shipped annually in 2019.

While the corporate world has embraced and even encouraged various forms of wearable technology, such as fitness and activity trackers, government agencies have not been as quick to adopt the growing trend – and for good reason. 

The recent data theft from the Office of Personnel Management computer systems revealed how vulnerable agency networks already are to attack. Wearable technology creates more points of access on these networks that not only create security issues but also drain bandwidth and cause performance problems.

IT departments must take charge of the network before wearable technology takes charge of them. Before these gadgets show up on the network, IT should consider the following five steps:

1. Monitor the network.  IT professionals should check their network monitoring capabilities and make sure they have the settings optimized to offer transparency around who is connected to the network, what they can access and what bandwidth they are able to consume. With carefully monitoring, personal device and wearable technology issues can be identified before they become a real headache.

2. Benchmark for wireless access. Define a benchmark that accounts for which users connect via which devices, how many devices are expected to be used and what is being accessed from those devices.  The benchmark will help IT develop a thorough understanding of how wearables could impact the network’s bandwidth and  then identify design changes needed.

3. Implement data-driven policies:  While many wearables will access networks via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, they will typically require a connection to a laptop, computer or tablet so they can synch data. Say hello to a slower network and a potentially bigger bill from the Internet service provider. IT must review network usage, security and bring-your-own-device policies. By establishing BYOD or wear-your-own-device usage policies, IT can support users with multiple devices, while maintaining acceptable wireless availability and performance.

4. Review security. Today, many organizations find that each employee has one to three devices accessing the network; in a matter of years this could rocket to 15 to 20 per employee. From a security standpoint, gaining oversight and managing the data that goes through the network will be the biggest challenge. First, determine that devices accessing the network or the information being transmitted are legitimate. Second, ensure that all files are encrypted and being transferred through a secure, transparent platform rather than an unsecure Enterprise File Sync and Share application.

5. Create policies for usage. If agencies going to embrace wearable technology, and many would argue it is only a matter of time until they are forced to, this will require clear policies determining who is allowed to bring the equipment into the workplace and connect to the network. These policies should be adopted before wearables have become entrenched in the workplace environment.

There are a number of benefits wearables can provide for employees, both personally and professionally, and agencies should take advantage of these benefits to drive performance improvements – once the network is prepared to sync with these devices.  

About the Author

Aaron Kelly is a VP of product management at Ipswitch.

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Reader Comments

Mon, Aug 17, 2015

You do realize that this "wearable technology" are products that connect to a users phone via Bluetooth and do not connect directly to a network, right? So essentially all of these issues are in fact, non-issues and the increased usage will come from devices that are using the network already which is minuscule when talking about wearable as they only receive the information the devices to. This is coming from a wearable user (Pebble), and I have spent a long time with this device and have monitored its data usage and the difference is minuscule at most. There are problems to be aware and to prepare for, like being able to record or photograph discretely, but data usage should not be an issue. I am only a college student working in the technology field, but I do understand this wearable technology and have been using it for over a year. (Also for reference, the Apple Watch is not regarded as anything important in the wearables market as they do not have very many units out and there are many companies with a large following that have been making wearable for quite some time before Apple that work much better, i.e. Pebble, Samsung, Motorola, Garmin, FitBit, and many more.)

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