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Wearable tech offers promise (and potential peril) for the enterprise

Al Sacco | Jan. 23, 2014
Wearable technology is not just for consumers. CIOs who want to stay ahead of the curve need to start preparing for this new wave of gadgets today. Here's a look at the current state of wearables in the enterprise, along with some examples of how your company can begin to realize the technology's potential for business.

Snodgrass cites one of the startups working with Wearable World, Bionym, and its wearable authentication gadget called Nymi, as an example of the future of wearable authentication. Nymi, a "smartband" worn on the wrist, measures cardiac biorhythms through the skin to authenticate users.

Forrester's Gownder suggests this type of biometric authentication will not only be used for physical access to facilities but, eventually, for payments as well.

"I think identification is one of the most important aspects, the tipping point for wearables," Michelson says.

Wearables are particularly well suited for authentication, Michelson says, because they attach to your person and are not just in a pocket or on the desk next to you. That makes them harder to forget or to steal. Michelson also suggests that wearables with biometrics sensors are much more secure than physical keys, passwords or smartphones, since biometrics can't be duplicated or imitated. If a Bad Guy steals your smartwatch, for example, he can't use the biometric-based authentication feature.

"Identification [via wearables] will be one of those really killer apps," Michelson says. "It will kick the door in" and let people do away with traditional keys and smart keys. "There's frustration around keys and login IDs, and there's a relatively low barrier to entry for authentication using wearable tech."

CA Technologies makes access management products, so it's no surprise that Michelson is particularly excited about the implications of wearable tech on identification and authentication. Though he doesn't mention specifics, Michelson also hints that CA is working on some wearable-related security products.

"There will be advances in security and identity with wearable devices that will actually make CIOs' jobs better and easier," Snodgrass says. "I've dealt with a lot of CIOs and IT departments, and that's just one piece of wearables that I think will really encourage them, instead of just distract and stress them out."

The Wearable World CEO doesn't think it will be particularly cost-prohibitive to implement wearable-based authentication systems. Companies of various sizes and financial means should be able to benefit fairly quickly. "The job of the CIO is to make the machine work more efficiently and better with better security," Snodgrass says. "I think that's part of the promise of wearables."

Wearables Present Enterprise Security Challenges
For the next year or more, the smartphone will remain the "hub of where all of these wearable devices interact," according to Snodgrass, so securing that smartphone will be key to maintaining the security of wearables. Most organizations that support smartphones already secure them in some way, so wearables might not require too much heavy lifting at first.

Security software makers will extend their offerings to cover popular wearables devices in the future, according to Forrester's Gownder. In fact, some already have. Samsung, for example, offers enterprise security features for its Galaxy Gear smartwatch via its KNOX security offering, Gownder says, even though it is still a smartphone companion device.


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