Over the past decade we’ve seen the size of sensors shrink dramatically, to the point that we now have many sensors in our smartphones: accelerometers to detect the orientation of the device, light sensors to automatically adjust the brightness of the display, magnetometers to detect the direction you’re pointed in, and many more. We’re reaching a point where these sensors are becoming small enough to fit in to a pair of glasses, or a bracelet/watch-sized device.
Apple, Motorola, Samsung, and Microsoft are rumoured to be preparing wearable devices. We’ve seen a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign from Pebble, and the buzz around Google Glass is hard to ignore; this is the next big trend in tech. Let’s take a look at what it could change.
Creating & sharing
Wearable devices aren’t anything new: the wrist watch has been around for many years, but what devices such as the Pebble has done is make them work with our modern needs: creating and sharing, access to information and that sense of being connected.
Google Glass could represent a shift in how we share experiences, it enables us to take pictures, record video, find directions — the list goes on — and share these with friends with just a few simple voice commands, no hands needed.
Access to information and information consumption
Access to information has become ubiquitous thanks to mobile data and smartphones. With wearable technology we have access to information instantly: we’re one step closer to the Technological Singularity. With devices like the Pebble ‘Smartwatch’ or Google Glass there’s no need to take your phone out of your pocket to check what that last buzz contained. A simple glance at your wrist, or a flick of the eye and you know exactly what you’re missing. With voice control the use of smaller wearable devices becomes more appealing: ask and thou shalt receive.
Glass already utilises voice commands: you can ask it for directions, to look up movie times, and, of course, you can Google anything simply by asking it, with the information quite literally appearing before your eyes. The implications of such a device could be astounding. For example a surgeon wearing Glass could have access to the patients vital signs, the camera could pick up things the surgeon may have missed, and the whole operation could be recorded for review and further diagnosis.
The quantified self
There are other benefits to having tiny sensors strapped to your body; devices such as the Jawbone UP, the Fitbit, and the Nike Fuel Band monitor your body’s movement and tells you if you’re moving (or sleeping) enough. This is the start of the quantified self, giving us data from our body in an unprecedented way.
In the future we may see devices like Glass that can automatically track what you’ve eaten (through the camera) and whether you’ve moved enough to burn off those calories — a dieter’s dream!
All comes down to data
Of course these devices are very much a double edged sword. We have APIs (application programming interfaces) for the Jawbone UP and Fitbit which allows us to track and view ourselves in ways that have never been possible before. This allows us to Visualise data — our strengths and weaknesses — and gives us something to act and improve on.
However, these devices provide a huge privacy problem. It’s a scary thought: a world where everyone is wearing a device that’s always listening, recording, and transmitting data. Companies like Google need data in order to survive and thrive, and for them Glass is simply another way to gather this data, they’ll know (much as they do now) everything you Google, your location, your calendar appointments, and much more. Google will use this data to serve personalised ads, and further their own agenda.
We also need to consider if these kinds of devices will exacerbate the anti–social culture Smartphones have created. You can’t easily put wearable tech away, they are always on display — demanding our attention.
This just a snippet of the possible uses and pitfalls of wearable tech. Whilst we have a way to go before wearable tech is commonplace, it certainly paints an exciting future.
What do you think, is wearable tech a fad or the future? Tweet @Spindogs with your thoughts.
This is a guest article written by Ben Thomas, a Sporadic Blogger, Digital Marketer and Technology geek.