Augmented Reality Slips into HR's View

Experts say HR must be aware of the benefits and risks posed to businesses

By Aliah D. Wright Dec 2, 2016

​New technologies are changing how we see and interact with the world around us, but some professionals question whether the risks in the workplace are worth the rewards.

Employees and IT professionals disagree on the value and danger of IoT (Internet of things) smart devices and augmented reality (AR) tools and programs: 60 percent of employed consumers in the United States believe AR applications would improve their lives and make it easier to do their jobs. But 67 percent of IT professionals say they aren't certain the benefits of AR outweigh the risks.

These stats come from the IT Risk/Reward Barometer study conducted by ISACA, a Rolling Meadows, Ill.-based global business technology and cybersecurity association. ISACA polled nearly 12,000 IT and cybersecurity professionals and employed consumers in the U.S., UK, Australia, India and Singapore.

IoT refers to the many devices that are connected to the Internet such as smartwatches, smartphones or smarthome controllers.

Merriam-Webster defines AR as "an enhanced version of reality created by the use of technology to overlay digital information on an image of something being viewed through a device," such as games like Pokémon Go or Oculus VR (virtual reality) or Gear VR.

Just as social media was once new and became a challenge in the workplace—from how to use it to promote businesses to how employees could use it inappropriately—so too, experts say, will IoT and AR. HR must be prepared.

What's HR to Do?

HR professionals need "to ensure that they have clear policies around employees' social media use and prohibitions against posting inappropriate material that might appear in augmented reality apps," said Rob Clyde, ISACA board director and executive advisor at BullGuard Software, in an interview with SHRM Online. BullGuard is a London-based security software firm.

"Consumers already are using augmented reality apps. Some of [these apps] leverage social media, tweets, blogs, and posted photos and videos about specific locations, buildings or images corresponding to a business," Clyde said. Images "may include virtual graffiti, disparaging comments or damaging information that will be easily visible to the user of the augmented reality app—for instance, when the user points a smartphone camera at a place of business, logo or advertisement."


[SHRM members-only resource: Sample Social Media Policy]


"HR should work with IT to ensure that the organization has the ability to monitor social media for inappropriate use by employees that could be linked to the organization via augmented reality."

Experts say HR should make sure BYOD (bring-your-own-device) policies and training are extended to cover employees' personal use of IoT and AR in the workplace.

Clyde also noted that "like most new technologies, augmented reality does increase the attack surface for cyber threats," which could create another opportunity for HR and IT to work together on training employees to use these technologies safely.  

Virtual & Augmented Reality: Understanding the Race for the Next Computing Platform, a study released by N.Y. City-based investment firm Goldman Sachs, speculates that AR and virtual reality could become the next big computing platform. The study estimates that the hardware and software market for these technologies "will grow to $80 billion by 2025. Awareness of AR grew rapidly with the launch of the Pokémon Go game in July 2016; many businesses realized growth in profits if business was incorporated in the game."

But the risks—loss of productivity, theft of intellectual property and other breaches of security—have left some companies concerned.

"Individuals and enterprises should focus on rapidly getting up to speed on these technologies while learning how to manage risk so they do not compromise their company's ability to innovate," Clyde added.

IT and cybersecurity professionals in the U.S. told ISACA researchers that the business world is still in the early stages of AR adoption; 37 percent of organizations responding to the survey have not used AR applications and do not plan to do so in the next year. Just 32 percent have developed methods to detect pictures, posts and videos geotagged to their business location or advertisements.

"Enterprises need to work on being agile and applying sound measures around governance, security and risk management to fully realize the benefits of these technology advances," said Christos Dimitriadis, Ph.D., chair of ISACA's board of directors.

HR Can Prepare for AR

ISACA recommends HR professionals help their companies by taking the following steps to realize the business benefits and avoid the risks of augmented reality:

Review your companies' governance framework and update your policies. Add the use of AR to the company's organizational procedures and policies on privacy and BYOD policies.

Extend social media policies to AR platforms. Make sure your social media policies also cover AR platforms, since many AR sites are accessed via social media.

Contemplate how AR might improve the business. Training, diagnostics and marketing are three areas with particularly strong potential, ISACA points out.

Make sure security is included in each part of the process. A critical component of AR initiatives should include keeping employee and business information safe.


Was this article useful? SHRM offers thousands of tools, templates and other exclusive member benefits, including compliance updates, sample policies, HR expert advice, education discounts, a growing online member community and much more. Join/Renew Now and let SHRM help you work smarter. 


Job Finder

Find an HR Job Near You
Post a Job


Find the Right Vendor for Your HR Needs

SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 10,000 companies

Search & Connect