Wearable Tech: By Fan or By Force?

Are you connected by Fit Bit, Moves or Map My Run to track your every move and motivate (or guilt) you into a healthy lifestyle? Are you an early adapter sporting GoogleGlass or awaiting Samsung’s Simband, a wristband to track multiple measures of its wearer’s health continuously? Or are you highly skeptical and find this type of tech invasive?

Wearable Tech InfographI recently attended day two of the Midwest Mobile Summit (#MWMS14) in Fargo, ND, where wearable tech was a key part of the conversation. Speaker Redg Snodgrass, CEO of Wearable World, Inc., an incubator focused on glass and wearable technologies based out Silicon Valley, presented The Dawning of the Wearable Economy. On May 6, coincidentally day two of the summit, Redg’s company released this infographic on The Existing Wearable Technology Landscape.

To place the infographic in context, Wearable World says, “The industry may still be in its early stages, but the number of companies developing wearables is fast expanding. With this growth comes an increase in overall product diversity. To help demonstrate this massive growth, we have created an infographic that identifies the major players within the space and showcases the infrastructure companies that support these new devices in order to help paint a more detailed picture of the taxonomical state of the wearables industry.”

Redg touched on this infographic during his May 6 presentation and the excitement in the room exponentially increased. The infographic broke wearable tech down by three categories including Lifestyle, Entertainment, Health & Fitness, then further segmented those into watches, glasses, clothing, jewelry, smart phones and headgear. They also dropped in company logos for those currently participating in these wearable tech spaces and capturing a slice of the industry expected to be at $30B by 2018.

Besides the infographic, one image that stuck with me from the presentation showed a baby with its ankle wrapped in a wearable tech device. The device could track your baby’s temperature among other things, alerting you to any abnormalities. Despite the fact that this is undoubtedly valuable information, when wearable becomes more mainstream will parents be guilted into using these types of devices? As we move forward with all of these devices, where is the empathy in tech? As Redg pointed out and I tweeted in 95 characters: @redgsnodgrass #mwms14 : no more #dudefest in tech — #women have empathy = good for #wearabletech.

While the fast-paced development of wearable tech, especially for health and fitness benefits, really excites me, I want to be a voice for the thoughtful use and adaption of wearable tech. To some extent the market will determine success or failure, as GoogleGlass is fully aware of. I believe in seamless and integrated tech that makes our lives easy and more fulfilling, but we are not there yet. Currently we’re at: “I’m so tired of looking at my iphone all of the time. I am ready to go back to a heads-up society.” (thanks @JameyErickson, #JMU612, for that insight!)

Heads-up: let’s pay attention to the user experience and effects of new wearable tech, specifically in terms of safety and privacy issues. Speaking a a parent of a 9 and 11 year-old, I do have concerns. I talked to one father who installed a tracking device in his 16-year-old daughter’s new car, unbeknownst to her. He also tracks her location via her mobile phone. What effect does this have on an individual? Is it a healthy way to teach teens to be responsible and build trust?

Rather than solely focus on tech because you can, I’m thinking about tech in terms of why and how you should and to what extreme. On Twitter the Internet of Things conversation is hashtagged #IoT (the Internet of Things refers to an expanding network of interconnected internet-enabled devices). The Guardian posted this article June 7 about the Internet of Things, which I found insightful as a reminder of the transition period we’re going through now. “When people talk about the Internet of Things, they tend to get hung up on the ‘things’ themselves. Actually, the real value and insight comes from the data that these devices provide. We’re just at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what is possible in terms of data extraction. It’s a very exciting time.”

We’re also in a time where people who choose to track and share their data still represent a minority. No one is going to force you to wear a connected device, but incentives (monetary or otherwise) and benefits will compel more people to use wearable tech. As a marketer, the potential for data collection and use is attractive. Consider the example of the car insurance company Drive Like a Girl, as cited in the Guardian article. They install on-board car computers that monitor your driving and offers cheaper premiums to those drivers who prove less likely to have an accident (okay so you aren’t actually wearing this device, your vehicle is). “We use the latest telematics technology to give girls the fair price they deserve, not because they are female, but because they are safer drivers,” the company’s website states. “With telematics, they can prove it.”

Where do you stand on the wearable tech scale? Are you a fan of it all or do you feel it being forced upon you?