By Daniel Taylor
“Smartphones are fading. Wearables are next” – CNN Money
Edward Snowden’s now infamous NSA leaks have sparked intense debate across the world. The leaks confirmed what many already knew; The NSA is listening to our phone calls, monitoring social networks and more.
This is only the beginning of an Orwellian, Minority Report future.
In the near future, consumers will be adorning themselves with wearable technology that will weave an incredibly detailed picture of their lives. A cloud of information will float around you with details on sleep habits, what you ate for breakfast, who you are meeting for dinner, your heart rate, and much more. Insurance companies will likely harvest this data to adjust your rates. Governments will undoubtedly hack into this cloud of personal data to track down dissidents. Marketers will have access to a goldmine of personalized information that will be used to market products.
These wearables are sold to the public as a means of making life easier, which they undoubtedly will. With that convenience there will be a price to pay in privacy.
Google Glass is the most widely recognized form of wearable technology. In anticipation of an expanding wearable tech market, Google recently announced a new version of the Android operating system designed specifically for wearable devices.
Chris Dancy has been labeled the “most connected human on earth“. He uses a variety of devices to track what he eats, when he sleeps, as well as the environment around him. As the Daily Mail reports, Dancy has built his own personalized surveillance grid in his home that, “…is also hooked up with numerous sensors for products such as the smartphone-controlled Hue lighting system and a Beddit mattress cover, which collects data on his sleep. The dedicated technophile also tracks the progress of his two dogs by collecting data on their daily activities via pet GPS system, Tagg.”
While Dancy is on the fringe at the moment, this kind of personal data collection through wearable technology could become common place for the average individual in the near future. But will the people accept it? IBM recently announced that we need to embrace the fact that “everything will be monitored” in an era of pervasive biometric surveillance. According to Peter Waggett, the Program Leader at IBM’s Emerging Technology Group, “The information is out of the bottle already”.
Cell phones have become a primary method of surveilling the populace in the technological era. With the advent of numerous other smart devices that will communicate within the “Internet of Things“, a whole new world of multidimensional surveillance is upon us. “Smart cities” under development in South Korea and elsewhere will integrate these wearable devices into the environment with embedded sensors.
The potential for not only individuals but also governments to hack these wearable devices is very real. Medical devices like insulin pumps and pacemakers have already been hacked. New vehicles are vulnerable to hacking as well.
This future doesn’t have to be inevitable. The people have the power to choose. Cultural norms will shape the flow of technology and how it is used. Convenience or freedom? It’s up to you.