Software development and security in the WYOD age

May 26, 2015

This post originally appeared as Software development and security in the WYOD age on our COO, Carlos Meléndez, Under Development blog at InfoWorld and is reprinted with permission from IDG.

As Farhad Manjoo of the New York Times observed in his review of the Apple Watch, smartwatches are likely to change the way we behave just as smartphones have done.

What he didn’t mention is how the new wave of wearables will change the way that enterprise IT works in the coming era: WYOD (wear your own device).

First we had BYOD: the challenge of adapting IT infrastructures, protocols, and data management to the various consumer devices that employees now use interchangeably for their daily work and personal lives.

Now, we’re in the age of the Internet of things. Thanks to Apple and others, this includes Things That You Put on Your Body and Connect to the Internet. Wearables invite even more opportunities for working across multiple devices to accomplish tasks, from the mundane to the mission-critical.

In other words, the arrival of Apple Watch just gave IT a whole new headache.

The good news is that we have learned so much from the lessons that BYOD strategies have taught. Integrating devices across multiple platforms and with exponentially multiplying apps operating across them, IT has tackled a lot of the security, data asset protection, and interoperability challenges that the many-device operating environment created.

The bad news is that IT has a new challenge to tackle: How to develop the apps and APIs that will help wearables function with enterprise applications.

As a developer by training, I find this particular challenge really fascinating because it causes the technology strategist to take a big step back and look again, with fresh eyes, at the entire IT infrastructure to see where the vulnerabilities and strengths lie, and therefore where to focus a development team’s energy.

This requires the thoughtful resignation of assumptions, for two reasons. First, you have to be open to new ideas about how wearable technology might bring to life applications whose usefulness previously seemed doubtful. For example, an inventory alert app in a retail business might not work well on a desktop, but could signal a real-time restock on store shelves if a smartwatch could deliver a quick, gentle reminder via a buzz on the wrist of a show floor worker.

Second, you have to be open to jettisoning projects that would make a seemingly mission-critical app work on a wearable. Project management software for an industrial design team, for example, might need to be available on tablets and even smartphones so that teams can collaborate remotely, but task updates wouldn’t be very useful if delivered to a smartwatch as an alert.

The age of WYOD will likely bring similar challenges to those posed by BYOD — security, interoperability, etc. But WYOD also requires new and unique solutions for wearbales work in the enterprise.

So, if wearables seem like a headache, the cure is good old-fashioned problem solving: a change for development teams to flex their creative muscles and create elegant technology solutions.

Sort of like the solutions we’ll be strapping to our wrists in the weeks and months ahead.