The Unwearables: Think Twice Before Your Company Adopts Wearables

wearablesWearables continue to be the  hardware story of 2014…in spite of privacy and security concerns.

But before your company decides to integrate wearables into its workflow you must answer these two questions.

  1. Are they secure enough to transmit sensitive business related data?
  2. Will it be off-putting for customers who might feel that their privacy is being encroached?

Security firm Symantec, armed with only a Raspberry Pi microcomputer and a total of $70 in computer hardware, were able to pull usernames and passwords from nearby wearables.

New wearables, such as the Razer Nabu and Bionym NYMI, are constantly being announced. Both large manufacturers and small scale startups are getting in on the action, but a recent story on the BBC illustrates the potential security issues for business applications.

Question #1: Share it, share it good?

According to the BBC article, Symantec researchers combined the Rasperry Pi with a Bluetooth module and headed to parks and sporting events to eavesdrop. Yes, they were able to get information broadcast from the devices.

But, more worryingly, about 20% of the wearable apps broadcast information like usernames, passwords and birthdays without encryption.

What is a Raspberry Pi? from Raspberry Pi Foundation on Vimeo.

Question #2: A Scanner Darkly

In my last post on wearables where we tested out Google Glass, I argued that many people will be put off by the wearables’ invasion of privacy.

Long the stuff of dystopian sci-fi nightmares, Google Glass holds the potential to identify people automatically and pull up what information exists about them publicly on the internet through yet-to-be-developed face recognition software (like Facebook’s ominously named DeepFace).

This alarming scenario was discussed at CES 2014 (where a panel of wearable developers highlighted that AR (Augmented Reality) and big data would have even bigger repercussions than just a surreptitious camera.

Imagine the backlash if such an app was released. It would take Facebook stalking to a whole new level. These privacy and security concerns will require a rethink among wearable manufacturers but also the apps and social networks that they share to.

The Computer Says No

So are wearables right for your business? While the tech blogs might be buzzing about wearables, fitness trackers and smart watches only have a 7 percent penetration with consumers. That number is growing, however, at about 50-80 percent each year.

There are of course plenty of reasons to buy and use wearables in your business: product testing, app development, projecting an image, tech research and building thought leadership are just some good reasons.

But before you start building your cyborg army you need to know that it won’t alienate customers and broadcast their private information into the ether.


Wearable Technology for the Wrist” by Intel Free Press is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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