Escape From The Wearables World, IT Edition

Written by Evan Schuman
July 21st, 2014
As wearables get more sophisticated and integrated into our physical environments, virtual environments and entering the sacrosanct enterprise data stream, they certainly promise wonderful advantages. But as any other IT veteran knows, never look a corporate gift horse in the mouth without first performing security penetration testing. (The enterprise IT motto: Trust and get fired.)

What brings these happy thoughts to the surface was an interesting piece in Wired yesterday (July 21) about a wearable vendor's efforts to focus on context in making its device more valuable. It's a terrific goal, but the more IT allows these devices to access, collect and manipulate sensitive data, the more valuable those databases will be to cyberthieves and corporate spies for your direct rivals. In IT, greater convenience often means greater risk, something vendor slides somehow always forget.

I am not suggesting a sci-fi plot where these devices learn all about us and then take over the planet and make humans into their slaves. (Dawn of the Wearable World? The Wearables War?) But a few security limits wouldn't be out of line.

If we take the idea of wearables context into the IT world, the potential for attractive efficiency is powerful. Consider a device that not only tells you that your next meeting is in Conference Room 7B in six minutes, but searches through your E-mail and texts and present you a relevant synopsis of the key datapoints. In other words, exactly what would you expect a good assistant to do. Take this to the next level, though, and things get interesting.

What if the wearable records that full meeting and attempts to transcribe it? (Other devices today already claim to do this.) What if it's intelligent enough to be able to recognize the key points? What if, during the meeting, a speaker references something that you don't recognize? It might be the name of a person, project or vendor. How about if the app—upon hitting a button or clicking an icon—could try and answer "Who is that?"? It might display an option of the last six things mentioned and asks you to select the one you want clarified. And it then would review all documents, e-mails and texts to try and find a reference to that item/person.

Then there's voice recognition and image recognition. If trained, could it identify who said what in the meeting? If you let it see the person speaking, can it search images to try and identify them?

An IT-staff meeting friendly wearable could be a huge help. The question is: Will it be a bigger help to you or to a lucky cyberthief or corporate spy? Historically, new technology always gives short shrift to security initially, until something blows up. Mobile app's security afterthoughts are probably the best and most recent example, with Walmart exposing more than it realized along with Delta and Facebook and especially Starbucks.