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The Future of Wearable Apps: Who Controls Your Data?

wearable app

Today the “Wearable technology” is everywhere. The consumer electronics market has also well-experienced the popularization of wearable devices. Whether as a fitness tracker, sports tracker, hearing impairments, stress management tool or a fashion statement, the demands of wearable gadgets are expanding with more real-time applications. As a matter of fact, “Smartwatch”, Smart glasses and “Activity” Tracker are the popular names in wearable technology for their personal and commercial use. The search for newer application areas is still on.

However, all these technological innovations and supremacy of wearable technology come with data privacy challenges for device manufacturers.

Where are We Heading

The future of wearables with the human race is certain. They are going to be cheaper, faster, and smaller in size. That means you will ingest and embed wearables in your bodies sooner and that is how people’s lives are going to be controlled and monitored. As the technology evolves, the design of obtrusive wearables continues to change.

2016 already witnessed the intuitive and unobtrusive usage of fingerprint screening. Other biometrics such as palm vein, voice, iris, and facial authentication also made a good progress by the time.

Gartner predicts that by 2017, 30% of wearables are going to be completely unobtrusive to the human eyes. By 2018, 25 million HMDs (head-mounted displays) will be sold in the form of immersive devices. In fact, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and other smartglass apps on HMD devices have outreached their usage in consumer market though they were primarily designed for industrial purposes, military training, and simulation.

Biometric sensors are now integrated into jewelry for alerts and emergency alarms. Built-in sensors are used in 40% of smartphones being shipped to the end users. These sensors obtain biometric information and pass on to the smartphones for applying intelligence and authentication.

Data Privacy and Inherent Security – The Big Issue

Now the most concerning factor is that who have the access to your data. Who controls them? Data privacy is going to be the next issue in this technological evolution.

Just think of a real-life scenario. Your smart watch vibrates at 8 a.m. You connect the device to your smartphone to check how well you slept last night. If the result is poor you feel depressed. So you take an extra cup of coffee which increases your heart rate. Being already late for the office you run into traffic and rush to your desk. This boosts your stress level. Due to the time crunch, you end up having only one sandwich at your lunch. By the time you are at home you have skipped the evening walk. Now you want to crash on your couch with a bottle of beer and takeout burger. You take a few more burgers to skip a good dinner. And finally, you go to the bed with a hope for a sound sleep at night.

Now imagine what would be the impact of such a lifestyle and behavior on your health, and so on the tracking devices? Your sleep deficit, high blood pressure, heart rate, weight gain and all such symptoms are stored in your wearable devices. These devices store and send your health data through cloud software for remote access. With so much of your personal health-related data being collected through activity tracker, smartwatch, pulse tracker and then sent over the web, your privacy is in question.

If the data storage process is not well-taken care of, there is a chance of data breach by fraudulent third parties. Other unscrupulous organizations stealing the data may assess your health risk. The risk is so serious that you may face an increase in insurance premium or even policy cancellation by insurance companies. Such crucial health information if leaked and falls in the wrong hands may have a financial impact on you.

As report says, by the end of 2018, 780 million wearable devices will flood the domesticate market. This means hackers may be at the top of those sensitive data and using them for their financial gains.

Deep Data Concerns for Manufacturers

Product manufacturers are also facing legal challenges around data privacy. Data collected from wearable devices help manufacturers understand how often, when, and where consumers use their product. This enables them to continue developing innovative products with upgraded technology, keeping consumers’ interest in mind. They also need to ensure that data collection process does not violate legal formalities or impact their brand values.

Safeguarding Data Privacy Under Legal Act

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of European Union (EU) will bring data protection legislation in May 2018. This aims to clarify data subject’s rights and obligations on data controller and data processors. The legislation highlights how personal data of EU’s residents are going to be used. Obligations around big data in wearables market are also quite significant to deal with.

The new regulations will require manufacturers to put consumer privacy at first. They need to abide by the default setting i.e. Privacy and Security by design. The law also demands that users give affirmative consent of using their personal data while accessing the applications. The manufacturers are also supposed to explain users about how the data is going be used by others and to what extent. The stricter security requirements safeguard users’ interest. Should there be any breach of law, data controllers are supposed to handle all the adverse situations.

Maintaining the Right Balance

Consumers have every role and rights to avoid security breaches under the law. They must understand what data to share, to what extent, and what not to share on the cloud through wearables. The legal authorities also need to fill in the gaps between current and future technical compliance considering data security of utmost importance. A good privacy policy dealing with the transfer and storage of personal data is crucial.

As an initiative, product manufacturers need to upscale their training by business line or region. It is important for them to act reasonably and responsibly. They need to decide which data to process and store and what not to handle.

Conclusion

In this world of digital technology, everything is documented. Companies and governments are using the personal data to know about you and make decisions based on your historical statistics. So it is important that manufacturers of wearable devices follow the data privacy guidelines to safeguard users’ interest.

Many times, to comply with faster time to market, manufacturers sacrifice security considerations. But faster is not always the better. Purchasing data breach insurance to deal with the data violation risks and customer litigation is also a common practice for companies. Organizations should take advantage of data protection law and consider privacy while starting a product lifecycle – before it is delayed. Government and private partnership can also play a pivotal role in ensuring inherent security and addressing privacy risks associated with the wearables.

The Future of Wearable Apps: Who Controls Your Data?
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Sarah Clark

Sarah Clark, working in B3NET Inc. & Mobixed as Content Developer. B3NET is leading web design & web development company from Orange County, California, Search Optimal is the Internet Marketing division of it. Sarah is working in web, mobile & Internet marketing domain with her 8 years of experience.
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