State of play: Wearables in 2015

April 2015

SmartwatchThe iWatch may soon be a huge success and make in-roads into all corners of our lives. But what have wearables done so far? Brian Runciman MBCS reports.

CES Las Vegas boasted a lot of wearables - but they almost all fell into the fitness tracker category - most seeming to perform the same functions. In the business arena there is no clear leading application for wearables, although they are making tentative inroads.

The USA is ahead of Europe in terms of the penetration of wearables according to a survey by London-based Futuresource Consulting. By October 2014, the take-up rate in the USA stood at 14 per cent, whereas Europe’s leading lights lagged with the UK boasting 3.6 per cent and Germany only 3 per cent. However, all agree that sector growth is set to accelerate in 2015. Amazon has said its sales in the sector are growing fast.

Banking apps for wearables, which allow customers to check their account balances, track stock market quotes and find automated teller machines, are already available.

Time and motion 21st century style?

A recent New Scientist item looked at companies using wearable technologies to monitor employees so as to analyse their work, productivity and health. It notes that at present there is little evidence that wearable technology improves productivity, although ‘one firm reported a change in employees’ behaviour after introducing them in the workplace’.

For example, sports people have seen the direct benefit of better sleep on performance. The article points out that employers have to be careful of privacy issues if employees wear trackers at home, and that rules are needed to protect workers.

This demonstrates the further blurring of work and home life distinction - which of course has been going on since email appeared on phones and the use of pagers before that - but wearables are a step further still and employees have to decide how much of their lives they want to make available to their employer.

Security?

SC Magazine recently said that wearable devices are not yet sufficiently intelligent to be particularly rewarding for hackers. However the caveat to that view is that security is not always being properly embedded in wearables, perhaps because they are not a big enough vector yet. The potential attraction is things like wristbands that can authenticate users to other devices.

The piece gives advice on monitoring mobile security and specific steps that organisations can take to protect themselves and their mobile workers, such as adopting pretty good privacy (PGP) data encryption and decryption software, using the SecureDrop platform, and disabling bluetooth.

On a final, happier note for UK: a recent wearable technology report by Beecham Research forecasts that as the wearable market’s size increases the UK could become a world leader by 2018 if it can promote its fashion expertise. And we know it has the technical expertise to lead in the technology too.

The full BCS State of Play report ‘Wearables: uses, benefits and drawbacks’ is available free to members in the BCS secure area (login required).

Image: iStock/181532443

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