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Wearable tech driving need for cloud

Don't overlook the impact of wearable technology on the enterprise and its open cloud environments.

In early January, Intel showcased the growth of wearable technology, which is creating a new playing field for innovation, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The impact that such technology will have on the enterprise and its open cloud environments should not be overlooked.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich disclosed plans for the Intel Curie module (PDF), a tiny hardware product based on the company's first purpose-built system on a chip (SoC) for wearable devices. The module is scheduled to ship in the second half of this year, and includes the Intel Quark SE SoC, a Bluetooth low-energy radio, sensors, and battery charging.

Intel has been actively pursuing the wearable technology segment, and since Krzanich revealed several projects at CES 2014, the company has announced multiple products and initiatives with different fashion, fitness, and lifestyle brands. These efforts include Basis Peak (PDF), Fossil Group, Luxottica Group, MICA and Opening Ceremony, SMS Audio, and the Intel "Make it Wearable" challenge.

The appeal of wearable technology is down to the rich data generated by the devices, which is stored and analysed in the cloud. The ability to access these insights from the cloud -- anywhere, anytime -- enables wearable technology users to boost their intelligence.

Rackspace's 2014 study, The Human Cloud: Wearable Technology for Novelty and Productivity (PDF), revealed that a small number of "early adopter" businesses (6 percent in the UK and the US) are already providing wearable technology devices for their employees. There is scope for the use of wearable technology in the enterprise to increase, with a third of respondents stating that they would be willing to wear devices offered by their employer.

"The rich data created by wearable tech will drive the rise of the 'human cloud' of personal data," said Chris Brauer, co-director of CAST at Goldsmiths, University of London.

He emphasised in the paper, "with this comes countless opportunities to tap into this data; whether it's connecting with third parties to provide more tailored and personalised services or working closer with healthcare institutions to get a better understanding of their patients".

"We are already seeing wearable technology being used in the private sector, with health insurance firms encouraging members to use wearable fitness devices to earn rewards for maintaining a healthier lifestyle. It is likely that the public sector will look to capitalise on the wearable technology trend with a view to boosting telehealth and smart city programs."

This has implications on an organisation's IT infrastructure, which is already hampered by the amount of data it houses.

Every day, we pretend to cope with this data tsunami of our own making. With the days of people performing data entry at myriad PCs long gone, no human army could keep up with all the data collected these days.

Each new device or app generates gigabytes -- even terabytes -- of data per day. All that data needs its own back-end capability for sending, requesting, and processing information on a massive scale. This will stretch the limits of the old hardware, software, and datacentres.

Quite frankly, organisations need to be planning for the exabyte age, because that future is rapidly unfolding before our eyes.

As this wealth of data drives businesses to look at cloud options, it also raises issues like data integrity, data sovereignty, industrial espionage, and sabotage.

Currently, some organisations are being forced to discard valuable data, because they cannot store and process it all for technical and financial reasons.

Even with international funding, it is too expensive to pay for a massive, purpose-built IT infrastructure capable of capturing and processing vast amounts of data generated in a split second.

The cloud has been instrumental in helping organisations deal with their data issues. But questions still remain on what strategy they should take and what "open" really means. With OpenStack, while it's defined as "open", it's not open core.

It's now 2015. If organisations haven't considered the future of their data and the maturity of the cloud market in dealing with their needs, they will get left behind.