Next steps for pursuing augmented and virtual reality in your IT organization

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Crossing the gap to big data

Augmented reality and virtual reality have generated more hype than practical business uses so far, but all that is about to change, according to Nelson Kunkel, national design director for Deloitte Digital, a division of Deloitte Consulting LLP. Kunkel is one of the authors of Deloitte's Tech Trends 2016. In part one of a two-part interview with The Enterprisers Project, Kunkel described some real-world scenarios where augmented reality and virtual reality are benefiting businesses today. In part two, he explains what CIOs must do now to make the most of these technologies.

CIO_Q and A

The Enterprisers Project (TEP): What advice would you give to CIOs about augmented reality and virtual reality?

Kunkel: I would tell CIOs that they and their IT teams will have to boost their design skills and take very different approaches to deployment if they hope to realize AR's and VR's full potential. Designing for AR and VR requires embracing new patterns and perspectives along with a wholly different design vocabulary. You might find yourself looking through a lens that defies the laws of physics and changes the way we experience even the most well-known business process and experiences. It also requires deploying new enabling tools and services to bring these experiences to life and make them work in the real world.

TEP: Are there any pitfalls CIOs should be careful to avoid?

Kunkel: As many enterprises learned during the first mobile technology wave, systems designed around previous-generation technology can't simply be ported to a new form factor. In fact, it took years for many organizations that were constrained by incremental thinking to evolve from a "mobile-maybe" to a "mobile-only" mindset. 

Luckily, AR and VR lend themselves to more imaginative thinking. CIOs should begin with ambitious scenarios that look beyond yesterday's use cases. Given that these tools are brand new, accept that experimentation is not only necessary, but essential to help everyone — IT, business executives, and end users alike — understand what these tools can do and how they should be applied to drive value. 

CIOs should also be mindful of potential risks and cyber-security implications. AR and VR devices need to be tracked, managed, and hardened to control access to underlying data and applications and to track ownership of the gear. As they do with mobile devices and wearables, companies should mitigate different risk scenarios involving data and services at rest, in use, or in flight. Moreover, they should consider adopting existing cyber protocols from mobile device, application, and data management programs to create the necessary management and controls around AR and VR.

TEP: Are there data protection concerns as well?

Kunkel: Controlling the associated digital assets should be a priority as well. Virtual reality and augmented reality introduce a lot of new intellectual property that may contain sensitive information requiring controls for security and privacy, regulatory and compliance issues, and competitive advantage. High-definition 3D renderings of facilities, detailed tracking of property and equipment location and controls, and associated beacons, sensors and connected footprints all need appropriate protection, from encryption and access controls to rights and asset management. 

Similarly, protecting the information being presented in an AR or VR world and ensuring its integrity become critically important. What if critical financial data were to become comprised or, worse, made public? The financial, competitive, and in some cases, regulatory implications could be severe. The possible implications could be tragic. How will you protect these soft spots? And what new governance approaches will be needed to protect user identities in the virtual world? 

The flip side of the cyber risk coin is that these two technologies show promise as tools that may help organizations boost their overall security and privacy strategies. VR, for example, can be used in disaster recovery efforts and war room simulations. Scenario planning around incident response can be taken to another level with experiences closely resembling real-life events. Likewise, AR may help companies better visualize the cyber threats they face. 

Other potential cyber-security use cases will emerge. CIOs can get ahead of the game by exploring opportunities for augmenting existing cyber protocols and approaches with AR and VR. No doubt there will be many, so now is the time to get started.

Minda Zetlin is a business technology writer and columnist for She is co-author of "The Geek Gap: Why Business and Technology Professionals Don't Understand Each Other and Why They Need Each Other to Survive," as well as several other books. She lives in Snohomish, Washington.