Wearable technology pros and cons (Com0011 Blog post #5)

Male hands with smart watch tap on the screen

Courtesy of Istockphoto

I received a smart watch/fitness tracker for my birthday this year. It of course tells the time, tracks my steps, calories I have burned, and stairs climbed and even tracks my sleep patterns. I synchronize it with my computer and, I am connected to a number of friends with the same device so we can compete with and motivate one another.

At first, I found it to be motivating and when my steps were lagging behind my friends, I would venture out for a walk instead of looking for a movie to settle down with for the evening. Now I have found different ways to get my steps, like strapping it to my cat’s collar or letting my five-year-old granddaughter, wear it.

While out Christmas shopping this weekend, I was taken back with the new smart wearable items on the market and their ability to monitor your heart rate and other health related information, make and take phone calls and incoming text messages.

Only Inspector Gadget would have thought this possible 20 years ago. Now you can find the same functionality on your smartphone that was only available on larger scale computers. It is beginning to look like our smartphones will be replaced with bracelets, necklaces, glasses, and rings as manufacturers now have the ability to pack sophisticated hardware into tiny devices that are becoming more affordable for the average consumer.

HiRes

Courtesy of Istockphoto

The functions on the wristband I have now, serves the purpose it was intended for… to hold me accountable… to be more active and get enough sleep. I think, in the near future, wearable technology will prove to be incredibly valuable to the aging population and myself with the other health related monitoring that it can do. I am concerned however, about how insurance companies, employers, and others with invested interest will be able to tap into this resource and gather personal health and lifestyle/behaviour information about their employees and consumers looking for insurance. Could someone be denied insurance or have their rates depend on the results from a wristband, or could someone be denied employment based on lifestyle results from this technology. Do you think wearable technology will offer us more benefits or could it lead to privacy issues?

http://www.wired.com/2013/12/wearable-computers/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/parmyolson/2014/06/19/wearable-tech-health-insurance/

6 thoughts on “Wearable technology pros and cons (Com0011 Blog post #5)

  1. Very interesting that you brought up the notion of an insurance company tapping into this type of resource to gather personal health and/or lifestyle behaviours. I attended a meeting yesterday with my association’s supplier of term life insurance for the professionals we represent, and this was actually discussed. The supplier is currently testing the concept of tracking a customer’s level of activity with a specific brand of monitoring bracelet/band to determine the rates to be charged. The supplier states that it will be an opt-in choice for the consumer and results will be transmitted to it, using the honor system, in contrast to the introduction of vehicle telematics in Canada by two automobile insurance companies in 2013.

    That technology consists of a device attached to the diagnostics port in your car which measures everything from acceleration, speed and braking to the time the consumer is behind the wheel, once again to determine the risk factor each individual represents and what premiums he or she will be charged.

    As CBC Business News asked, “Would you give up a little of your privacy if it meant you could save money on your insurance premiums?” Something to think about as term life insurance companies measuring your health and lifestyle behaviours will be coming to Canada in about two years!

  2. Thank you for your comments. I think it’s a tough one. On one hand, I can see it possibly motivating people to change their lifestyle and driving habits for the better, while giving those who are already health conscious and good drivers, better rates. But fear that it could become mandatory down the road, thus forcing us to give up some of our privacy.

  3. I have to admit I am quite overwhelmed with all of this new technology and smart watches. I know a lot of people have them, and to be honest I don’t really understand the use of them? I mean I do, I guess I just don’t see myself using that. I get that it does encourage healthy living and gets people motived and active… but for all those other purposes? Is it really needed?

  4. ooOOOOOooo!!! I never had thought of insurance companies, either. Great point. I did have to chuckle at the ”…strapping it to my cat’s collar…” not just because it was really funny…I believe it really personifies the notion that if we fall behind, we simply don’t measure up. I have a Fitbit. It’s in a drawer. Not because I don’t walk a lot, I most assuredly do. I simply cannot stand the stress of it. How on earth I made something that was supposed to help me in my activity/sleep goals into a piece of ”thing” that bubbles loathing to my tech surface, is beyond me. Yet here I am, pondering strapping it to my cat. Then, the other cat.

    I love watching the new technologies arrive into the marketplace, but at the very same time succumb to the ”keeping up with the Jones”’ mentality of society: status. If you can afford one, you get to benefit from the technology and the achievement of goals. If you cannot afford one, sucks to be you. Good luck. That kind of thing. Interesting to ponder!!

  5. Hello, good and thought provoking post. I think you have raised a lot of good point in regards to your post, especially the good potentially from wearables (finding out about your health concerns) vs. privacy relating to data which may be used by employers for various purposes. These are some of the concerns, which I mentioned earlier with regards to the Internet of Things, as many of these items like wearable devices will play a part . I would take cautious supportive approach to wearables. I think they are good, but we also need to keep privacy in check.

  6. I guess I’d have to be part of the pessimistic crowd (again!)… I’m quite sensitive to the privacy issue. I really struggle with how we tend to just post our life online, deliberately or not. The insurance company is a vvery interesting element too, and I must admit it doesn’t surprise me at all. The information is here, so why not?
    What I’m curious to know is if at one point we will switch gears and find our balance or just go down that slippery slope?

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