The Big Three: Data, Content and Security of Enterprise Wearables

Written BY

Emily Friedman

March 7, 2017

At EWTS 2016, data, content and security were identified as the top problem or challenge areas still facing the enterprise wearable tech industry. Here are some thoughts on “the big three” revealed at the conference:  

On data and infrastructure:

Data is problematic for enterprise wearables in two regards. The first (brought up by James Ilari, Team Lead, Emerging Technologies & Strategy, Information Services, PowerStream Inc.) has to do with back-end data, which in most organizations is not currently consumable from a mobile standpoint. Chris Croteau (General Manager, Head-Worn Devices, New Devices Group at Recon, an Intel company) elaborated on this point: “The number one [problem right] now with near-eye displays and AR is the whole intent of the device is to tie you to a back-end knowledge base, some information store.”

Many companies have this kind of information stored in PDF documents or possess “swarms” of data, neither of which work well in a heads-up display. The challenge, then, is to recreate or “re-architect” the organization’s information stores; and the more immersive the device, the greater the challenge. The middleware, says Chris, is there but a “quantum leap in information management” is required.

The second data challenge comes from new data that is being collected, whether by wearable devices or by sensors on machines:

Pete Godino, Global Operations Innovation Business Manager, Hershey Company: “We went live with our first manufacturing line to use machine learning and IoT at full scale. The amount of data we can collect and actually use through AI is remarkable, but it’s been a rough road. We’re still learning from the data, working through our infrastructure and security.

The amount of data that can be generated by advanced sensors today is certainly remarkable. This data is one source of content that can be consumed via wearables (see below.) In the medical community, new data poses both the greatest opportunity and the biggest hurdle to advance medicine and improve patients’ lives. Biometric wearables are creating multiple data streams, and we’re not even sure how accurate the information is or how to yield actionable insights from it. The challenge is to integrate those streams and “apply big data” to gain a more complete or total view of a single patient.

Dr. Peter Chai, Medical Toxicology Fellow, Mass: “[We] need to figure out a way of integrating all these streams so you don’t have six different apps for all your different wearables, [just] looking at these things in isolation. How do we take the best information from each piece?”

Peter recounted giving health-tracking wristbands to a group of patients, which created about 6 billion data points per patient in one week. His interest is in using the information from patients’ wearables to predict disease, figuring out how to “hone in” on key pieces of data as well as how to identify larger patterns.

Dr. Paul Szotek (Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery, Acute Care & Trauma Surgery, IU Health) ultimately envisions a “surgical dashboard” that presents the right data at the right time in a digital overlay, “like a Google map of the patient’s body” right in the O.R.

Dr. Selene Parekh (Professor of Orthopedic Surgery, Duke University) also spoke of a dashboard: “The problem is patients are collecting all their consumer data, and it’s not being funneled into a healthcare portal for us to [access.] Eventually, all this information will have to [go into] one dashboard…Eventually we are all going to have to see one platform.”

What to do with the data collected by wearables is a challenge for other industries, as well. It’s important to work with IT in defining how your organization is going to “capture, hold and report the data” – Kristi Montgomery, Vice President, Innovation, R&D, Kenco Innovation Labs

On content:

As mentioned, many organizations still use PDF documents, the kind of information stores which have to be re-created to be viewed through smart glasses or other devices. Sensor data also serves as content that can be shared with workers through wearable technology. But sensors generate a lot of data, and it’s not all “good data,” as in medicine or the Oil & Gas industry. There aren’t too many industries today that are ready for Augmented Reality from a content perspective, save for perhaps the AEC industry.

What content do your employees need to access on a day-to-day basis to get different tasks done? From work instructions to equipment manuals, safety protocols, and sensor data—all this information has to be made “consumable” from a wearable device. In other cases, the appropriate content – animations, step-by-step procedural information, 3D visualizations of objects, etc. – will have to be created “from scratch.”

On security:

As with data, there are two challenging components to enterprise wearables on the security front: There’s the security of the data collected and conveyed through wearable technology (patient and employee data as well as sensitive company information), and there’s the security of the devices themselves, which present yet another cyber entry point into the organization.

Security can be a major hold-up to getting the most out of what wearables have to offer to enterprise. How do we implement without compromising security? The best practice is to tread lightly and slowly, to start small-scale in a controlled setting with data or a process that’s not the most critical and building on that. Use the pilot to identify security gaps and weaknesses, and to build a “culture of security” around wearable technology in your organization.

There is such a thing as being overly cautious, however, which Dr. Parekh warned against:

“We’re so worried about privacy it stifles our ability. We have competing interests: We want ease of access – want to use biometrics and have full access to healthcare data – and yet we want to have security. At some point, some kind of standard has to be adopted across the industry to allow people like me to implement [this technology] into my work.”

Though Dr. Parekh was speaking as a healthcare provider, overcautiousness can stifle industries other than medicine. Perhaps the most practical piece of advice given at EWTS ’16 came from Blake Burnette, Director of Equipment Research and Development at Baker Hughes: “If your device doesn’t do anything it wasn’t designed to do, then you have security.”

*All quotes are transcribed from the sessions and presentations given at EWTS, June 16-17, 2016 in Atlanta, GA, and therefore may not be exact.

Further Reading