Wearable Computing: Reasons to be Excited and Wary
A lot of interesting and exciting new technologies are coming up in the near future, but wearable computing is turning out to be the one with the most opportunities. It’s a compelling new way of interacting with computers and sharing data, making it rife with possibilities that tech visionaries couldn’t dream of before. However, as with anything good, there are a few catches along the way, and some of them can be eerily creepy.
Fitness Trackers Lead The Way
Wearable computing isn’t exactly a new thing. Fitness trackers are currently dominating the market like there’s no tomorrow. These devices have been a boon for health freaks who want to track almost everything about their bodies. That has been exploited by companies such as Fitbit, Jawbone, and Nike, among others, who have released great devices that keep track of steps, jogging, and other physical activities.
While some may feel that this tracking is invasive, I think it’s great. Data tracking is a great way to motivate oneself while exercising to lose weight or gain muscle. We all know just how powerful motivation can be when the going gets tough. Exercising to lose weight is an uphill battle, and I feel these devices make that struggle tolerable and maybe even enjoyable.
Seamless Integration is the Future
The “quantified self” application is currently leading the charge for wearable computing since it’s far less complicated than its alternatives. They fit seamlessly into our daily lives. As a matter of fact, these trackers are extremely easy to use and don’t require fiddling about. An initial setup and synchronization with your smartphone is all it needs to work, and that takes just a few minutes.
This reminds me: an average person checks their smartphone almost 150 times a day. People actually bring their smartphones out from their pockets or bags to stay updated. All this can be made simpler by integrating the device on your wrist, shirt, or even your head. Staying on top of things wouldn’t be a bother, and it certainly will be the way of the future.
Context is Key
All this brings up the question of context. At the moment, wearable devices track basic data and lack the power needed to process contextual information. But that will soon change as the combination of hardware, software, and networking will help us find precise information that we need. The closest example is Google Now, which keeps track of information to anticipate your needs and better present data. While that’s software, wearable computing will push it to hardware form.
The Internet of Things—aka the WPAN (Wireless Personal Area Network)—will also be driven through these devices. In this model, your smartphone works as a central Internet-connected server that talks to all your wearable devices. This enables the devices to work in tandem with each other, exchanging rich data for a cohesive, brilliant experience. Simply put, the future’s going to be an exciting place.
But Why Am I Wary?
One reason: lack of privacy. People might argue that one shouldn’t use these devices if they value their privacy so much. The problem isn’t with me but with the other users. Once wearable computers become ubiquitous, they will keep track of everywhere their users go. My friends and family, if they buy into these devices, will track their surroundings.
It is this exposure to foreign devices that I am scared of. Even if I don’t want to let others know where I was or am, people will find out through my friends. Google Glass-like devices may capture photos and videos of me without me even knowing about them. Sensors may track my movement without me being aware. These are just a few things that come to mind.
Hackers and Security
Another issue may be malware and hackers. Since these devices are going to be highly connected, privacy breaches may occur. It may result in a data dystopia which nobody wants. It’s not just that either—as these devices record sensitive health data, hackers could steal and use that data for themselves or to know more about what makes you tick.
The Android Problem
It’s also known as fragmentation. Since these wearable devices will run full-fledged operating systems, they may fall prey to manufacturer and OS fragmentation like Android. Some of them may not be able to communicate with each other or newer, feature-rich models.
The only way to solve this would be to build on common code or draft a protocol that everyone adheres to. However, I don’t see that happening, so this is a problem we’ll possibly have to deal with in the future.
The future’s full of possibilities, making it both an enchanting and terrifying place. I feel wearable computing will dominate in the future with feature-rich ecosystems and excellent user experiences. However, there will be pitfalls along the way, and I don’t like what I think they may be.