Mobile app data collection poses risks for enterprises, Gartner says

Consumer data collected through mobile devices should be considered a full 'citizen' of companies' data infrastructure

Most mobile applications will collect and analyze information about end users by 2015, a trend that raises both rewards and risks for enterprises, according to analyst firm Gartner.

In fact, 25 percent of companies that take advantage of consumer data "will face damage to their reputations due to inadequate understanding of information trust issues," Gartner analyst Roxane Edjlali wrote in the report, "Adapt Your Information Infrastructure in the Age of Consumer-Centric Mobile Apps."

"The line between acceptable and unacceptable use of consumer data can be very thin, and it gets even thinner as the data collected becomes more detailed and personal," Edjlali added.

She cited the example of a company reselling biometric data gathered through mobile applications on wearables. "Even anonymized, this data could have major impact on people's ability to get adequate health insurance, if they are identified as belonging to a risk category," Edjlali wrote.

As companies gather more types and larger amounts of consumer data from mobile applications, it's crucial they treat that data "as a full 'citizen' of their enterprise's information infrastructure," subject to the same governance and policy framework as other types of data, she added.

Enterprises must ensure mobile application data remains private and anonymized, with firm controls over access to it, according to Gartner.

In turn, mobile data tends to be siloed, Edjlali wrote. Companies will fail to get the most value from it if they don't develop a comprehensive way to manage and reuse it for various projects, according to the report.

Repeating a prediction it made earlier this year, Gartner also said Wednesday that wearable computers will be responsible for 50 percent of all user interactions with applications by 2017.

Enterprise software vendors are starting to warm up to the wearables trend.

This week, Salesforce.com announced a developer toolkit for building applications that run on smartwatches, smart armbands and other devices. Salesforce.com is not the first company to release developer tools for wearables, but is the first to cater to enterprise developers specifically,an executive told CIO.com.

Oracle's Application User Experience team has also been working on apps for wearables, although the company hasn't made a major strategy announcement as of yet.

SAP, meanwhile, teamed up last year with Vuzix on a project that delivers information from a number of SAP applications to smart glasses.

Expect a wide variety of apps for wearables to emerge, both for consumer-oriented and business purposes, said analyst Ray Wang, chairman and founder of Constellation Research.

Consumer applications will target health care, fitness, sports, home automation, security and entertainment, among other areas, Wang said.

Meanwhile, enterprises could use wearable apps for field service and support, he said: "Identify a part, track a piece of machinery in the shop floor that's down, add augmented reality to help find the instructions."

Other targets include warehousing and logistics, as well as sales and support, Wang added.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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