Wearable technology – implications for personalisation and privacy

Jo Bowman

The massive – and growing – market in wearable technology promises to provide deep insight into consumers and their behaviour, tracking every move they make and, in some cases, measuring every heartbeat. Yet the willingness of consumers to share such intimate data rests on trust in the companies and brands they deal with – and getting a service or something else in return they believe is a fair exchange for their valuable personal data.

The quantified self

Todd Cullen, Global Chief Data Officer, Ogilvy & Mather, told I-COM that the "quantified self" movement, in which people were using wearable devices to track their physical being and uploading other information about their eating, sleeping and exercise habits, was building up a vast bank of highly personal – and potentially highly useful – information. Already, he said, Credit Suisse estimated the wearables market – covering smart watches, glasses and wristband monitors – at about $35 million, and is predicting this market could be worth well over $42 million in the next five years. Fitness monitors such as the Fitbit, Nike+ FuelBand and Jawbone are all gaining mainstream traction, and Khurram Hamid, Global Director Digital Media & Measurement at GlaxoSmithKline, UK, believes that not only will the big electronics manufacturers develop more wearable devices, there will be one billion low-cost wearables in circulation by 2019, as manufacturers in China realise the potential growth in the sector. "This is the next generation of the internet; it's the next generation of data. It's huge," Hamid said.