Bring Your Own Smartwatch: Mobility Management Vendors Prepare

How long will it be before IT organizations are tasked with enabling and securing smartwatches? Good Technology and AirWatch, two mobile device management companies, are already preparing their respective platforms for what they say is inevitable demand.

Pablo Valerio, International Business & IT Consultant

February 1, 2016

4 Min Read
<p align="left">(Image: Apple)</p>

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Two enterprise mobility management (EMM) companies are preparing their platforms for the next Bring Your Own Device trend to challenge the mettle of IT organizations. Good Technology, which was purchased in 2015 by BlackBerry, and AirWatch, acquired in 2014 by VMware, are adding tools to their respective platforms to help IT manage smartwatches in the enterprise.

As with iPhone and iPad before it, the demand to use Apple Watch in the enterprise may be driven by C-level executives eager to get their email, calendar notifications, and relevant business information on their shiny new devices. Dor Zakai, sales engineering manager at AirWatch, said in an interview with InformationWeek that most CIOs are not yet greatly concerned about managing smartwatches in the enterprise, except in the case of C-Level executives.

[ Never underestimate the human capacity for foolishness. Read 10 Stupid Moves That Threaten Your Company's Security. ]

Nonetheless, Good Technology and AirWatch have been working closely with manufacturers and software vendors to ensure their EMM platforms support the wearables.

This should come as no surprise, given IDC's predictions of smartwatch growth over the next four years. According to a Dec. 15, 2015, IDC report, 34.3 million smartwatches will ship this year, up from the 21.3 million units expected to ship in 2015. "By 2019, the final year of the forecast, total shipments will reach 88.3 million units, resulting in a five-year CAGR of 42.8%," according to IDC.

The IDC report indicates that Apple is by far the dominant player, with a 61.3% share of the smartwatch market on 13 million units shipped last year. IDC predicts Apple's smartwatch market share will drop to 51.1% by 2019, as other contenders gain traction in the market. IDC predicts that in 2019 the Cupertino company will sell more than 45 million watches.

According to Zakai, the main challenge that new smartwatches, such as the Apple Watch and some Android devices, represent to enterprise mobility management platforms is their lack of standard APIs. Standardization would make it simpler to deploy a management system on the wearable devices, he noted.

Add to this the fact that some manufacturers are using a different OS for the watches than they use for smartphones -- such as Samsung's Tizen OS – and Zakai said EMM vendors are challenged to create an effective application that runs entirely on the wearable devices.

That's why Zakai said AirWatch is focusing its platform on managing the information enterprise smartphones are allowed to share with paired watches. Its platform, when installed on an employee's smartphone, can be used to restrict access to some smartwatch capabilities. For example, Zakai said, IT can restrict an Apple Watch from using Siri or launching the camera on the iPhone with which it is paired. IT can also use settings that limit notifications and messages displayed on the Apple Watch. An iPhone managed under the AirWatch platform can also be restricted as to whether or not its user can even pair it with an Apple Watch, according to Zakai.

Good Technology has a different approach, designed specifically for Apple Watch. The company has released "Good Work" for the device, which enables IT to configure the level of detail shown in watch notifications. For instance, IT can determine whether a user will be able to see an email's sender and subject line only, or whether they'll be allowed to view a full message on the Apple Watch.

Good has also announced support for secure Android Wear app development on the Good Dynamics Secure Mobility Platform.

Managing smartwatches in the enterprise likely will be one of the hot topics at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Feb. 22-25, where we expect new wearables to eclipse new smartphones at the show.

Is BYO-Watch something your IT department is concerned about? Do you use an Apple Watch or other type of smartwatch for work? If so, we want to know about your experiences -- tell us in the comments section below.

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About the Author(s)

Pablo Valerio

International Business & IT Consultant

Pablo Valerio has been in the IT industry for 25+ years, mostly working for American companies in Europe. Over the years he has developed channels, established operations, and served as European general manager for several companies. While primarily based in Spain, he has also lived in Germany, The Netherlands and Denmark. His knowledge of the European IT business and his interest in EU technology initiatives spurred his move to technology writing. For the past four years, he has been a regular contributor to several publications in the IT ecosystem, focusing on privacy, security, mobile technology and smart cities. His work has appeared in InformationWeek, EETimes, Enterprise Efficiency, UBM Future CitiesDell's Tech Page One, and SAP Business Innovation, among others.

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