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Wearable Technology… Proceed with Caution?

  • By Allie Philpin 
  • Category: Cloud 
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By Allie Philpin

From the moment Virgin Atlantic announced their staff were trialling Google Glass in First Class to keep passengers up-to-date on the flight, journey, weather and more, wearable technology has found its place on the ‘new technological innovation’ map.  Now that Virgin has announced that the trial was successful and they will be rolling out Google Glass to staff at Heathrow Airport, and with the Google Glass Explorer programme being launched in the UK, it looks like wearable devices are set to become an everyday item in the future.

As we had with personal mobile devices over the past few years, as wearable devices not only become more readily available but also more achievable for the average person’s pocket, Google Glass and smart watches will gradually infiltrate the workplace.  Indeed, Gartner’s research predicts that the wearable technology market will grow to around $5 billion!

The Google Glass Explorer programme allows those over eighteen years of age to buy a prototype version of the technology – for a mere £1,000!  The programme has been launched to help Google iron out and fix any issues with the technology before they release the device globally, and help them continue with development.  Google will release software updates regularly for Glass that will be based on data that has been gathered from the ‘Explorers’.  The launch has attracted partnerships from The Guardian, Run!, Star Chart and in the UK, and whilst still in the prototype stage, the device has the potential to become a very powerful enterprise tool.

But no matter how many positive uses wearable technology has – business presentations, create-your-own videos, augmenting reality, the Internet encyclopaedia right before your eyes , etc. – these devices in the corporate world pose several ethical and privacy issues, mainly because of their intrusive nature.  With wearable devices coming into the workplace already, employers need to seriously thinking about the legalities and security aspects of this technology, and develop the relevant policies for staff in governing its use.

Google Glass and other wearable devices, with their videoing and photographic functionality which can be used surreptitiously by users if wanted, could create problems in the workplace of bullying; then there’s protecting your data and intellectual property; organisations need to take the right precautions to ensure they comply with not only privacy regulations, but the law, too.  Take a disciplinary action against an employee; with wearable devices, the employee could easily record the meeting, without telling anyone, and use that recording in any future legal proceedings.

Yes, there is the Big Brother aspect in that workers are often more productive if they know they are being monitored, but remember their privacy rights and protecting your corporate data.  And don’t forget that this type of technology suits some professions, but not all, and its use could also raise health and safety issues.  And your intellectual property?  This needs to be protected, too.  Take a call centre; do you want staff to have access to customer records containing personal or sensitive data on clients?  Not really… Make sure any sensitive data or intellectual property is properly secure to avoid any leaks or breaches.  And if you’re going to use Google Glass to make video recordings, make sure the people you video have given their consent!

As with all new technology, look before you leap and consider all the implications before you discover, the hard way, that it’s not for you.

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