As I start to prepare for my talk on Wearables: Navigating the Perfect Storm of Sensors, Big Data, Privacy, and Security in Orlando at Better Software Conference East next week, I find I’m always updating my presentation with the latest developments and happenings. Last year about this time, I really thought that wearables sensors (at least fitness wearables that you wear on your wrist) were poised to take off. I’d been in Costco and seen two to three wearables — I think the Fitbit and Jawbone — on display in the front aisles. Perfect gifts in the $100 range, just in time for the holidays.
While it seems a lot of people got them, it wasn’t as many as I predicted. As I have given talks throughout this past year, I’ve often surveyed the audience to see how many people have a wearable. Surprisingly, it’s only been perhaps 15-20 percent. And the uptake of the Apple Watch has not been as great as I’d thought either.
As I say in our talks, wearables aren’t just for geeks anymore, but our challenge is to develop applications that can synthesize context from the gigantic amount of data these devices and their sensors generate. So for me, the big disconnect is added value. What do you get from them other than the novelty of knowing a little more about how many steps you did? And with them connected to your mobile phone, where is the data going? Do you read the privacy statement thoroughly? I doubt it. Ensuring the privacy and security of device usage and its data residing on a mobile smartphone is a big concern. Basically, everywhere you go and when, and yes, with who, could be known.
The thing is, these wearables sensors are collecting data, some of which we know and some of which we don’t know. I guess that’s why Tom Brady destroyed his mobile phone when he got a new one? I’ll definitely destroy my Jawbone when I upgrade!