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Going to the office? BYO Apple Watch

The launch of the Apple Watch heralds the transformation of BYOD into BYOX. How can businesses accommodate #GenMobile’s adoption of wearables, while still staying in control?

By Matthew Barker

“Gorgeous”. “Beautiful”. “Actually useful”. “Epic”. The accolades from the reviewers of the Apple Watch keep pouring in and the new device – though not the first of its kind in the market – holds the potential of becoming as ubiquitous as the iPhone or the iPod.

However, the expected popularity of the Apple Watch raises interesting challenges for CIOs and IT managers. The Apple Watch is merely a herald of an expected tsunami of BYOD smart devices and Internet of Things (IoT) wearables into the workplace, potentially opening up new risks to corporate data privacy and security.

It’s highly likely that the first Apple Watches in the workplace will be personally owned. Yet these devices will be able to interact with corporate networks and access, download and store company data. Other wearables (not the current version of the Apple Watch) come with built-in cameras. In fact, one of the more interesting features of the Apple Watch is the ability to tether to, and control, iPhones over a remote connection.

IT departments will be understandably worried about the impact of the Apple Watch on the workplace. Even though many organisations have already adopted BYOD policies, several new conundrums will pop up.

At the very top of the list: Is it appropriate to allow wearable devices to connect to enterprise networks? What if the device is already tethered to a smartphone that has been given access?active_twitter

Bear in mind that, according to a study by Aruba Networks, the new generation of employees – dubbed #GenMobile – expect mobility at the workplace to be a given, so any blanket decision to ban such devices from the workplace will be highly unpopular. In fact, almost two thirds of study respondents say they use mobile devices to help them manage their work and personal lives better.

If the decision is made to accept Apple Watches and other wearables into the organisation, will existing BYOD policies that govern the use of corporate data be enough or will new policies be required?

When tinkering with these policies, CIOs have to keep in mind the fact that there will be other IoT-based devices coming along that could be embedded into an employee’s clothing or even office pantry appliances. In fact, the acronym BYOD will soon have to be replaced with BYOX, with the “X” symbolising practically anything.

Once policies have been amended appropriately, then – and only then – CIOs can turn their attention to the underlying communications network. Many IT organisations have already put in place solutions that can secure any mobile device that connects to corporate Wi-Fi; giving them complete visibility of the number, type and frequency of mobile devices assessing their network.

What’s more, these platforms are also capable of enforcing flexible security policies that are capable of analysing – and acting on – the context of how an employee uses the mobile device. For instance, an employee using an Apple Watch at a coffee shop to access corporate data may not be granted the same level of access as one who uses a PC during office hours. Depending on the context, different policies can be applied to make sure that the right balance between flexibility and security is met.

Given these considerations, CIOs will need to skillfully juggle the competing requirements to arrive at an enlightened BYOX policy that is most appropriate to their company’s needs. The Apple Watch certainly won’t make that juggling act any easier. But it will certainly make it more beautiful.

 

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