Users consider wearable technology, such as the Google Glass, beneficial but worry about their privacy, survey reveals

Users like wearable tech but worry about privacy

An in-depth study into wearable technology has revealed that almost a fifth of respondents uses the technology, but that concerns remain about privacy issues.

The survey was commissioned by Rackspace in association with the Centre for Creative and Social Technology (CAST) at Goldsmiths, University of London and was based on quantitative methodology.

Around 18 per cent of 4,000 respondents surveyed in the UK and the USA uses the technology, and 82 per cent of the US and 71 per cent of the UK users says these cloud-powered devices have enriched their lives.

“We are at the beginning of massive mainstream uptake of wearable devices, with the launch of Google Glass set to further boost adoption”, said Robert Scoble, Startup Liaison Officer and Technology Evangelist at Rackspace. “However, it is important to note that wearable technology and the cloud go hand in hand; together they provide the rich data insights that help users better manage many aspects of their lives.”

According to the results, wearable technology affects consumers’ lives in many areas. Some 63 per cent of the British and 71 per cent of the American respondents stated that the wearable technology has improved their health and fitness while one in three respondents in both countries believes it has improved their career development.

More than half of the American and over one-third of the British research participants claimed they feel more intelligent thanks to the technology. Some 53 per cent of respondents from the UK and 60 per cent of those from the US believe that wearable tech helps them feel more in control of their lives and in many cases they even use it to improve their love life.

Despite this optimism, many questions related to privacy issues remain unanswered. More than a half of the respondents of the Nanoracks survey stated that they don’t want to adopt wearable technologies because of privacy concerns. Almost two-thirds of the research participants expressed the belief that Google Glass and other wearable devices should be regulated, while one in five would prefer these devices to be banned completely.

The wearable technology devices powered by cloud computing generate huge amounts of data that can be analysed and made readily accessible whenever the user needs. The foreseen spread of these technologies will become an integral part of the ‘Internet of Things’ – a growing network of devices such as smart phones or road traffic sensors that connect to the Internet to share data in real time.

“The rich data created by wearable tech will drive the rise of the ‘human cloud’ of personal data,” said Chris Brauer, co-director of CAST at Goldsmiths, University of London. “With this come countless opportunities to tap into this data; whether it’s connecting with third parties to provide more tailored and personalised services or working closer with healthcare institutions to get a better understanding of their patients.”

The research has actually revealed that users might be willing to share some of the data generated by wearable technology with central or local government to allow them to crowd-source insights which can be used to enhance public services. 19 per cent of British respondents and 22 per cent of the Americans would consent to use a wearable device that monitors location for central government activity and one in three British and American citizens would agree to use a wearable health and fitness monitor that shares personal data with the NHS or healthcare provider.

“It is likely that the public sector will look to capitalise on the wearable technology trend with a view to boosting tele-health and smart city programmes,” Brauer said. First pioneering applications have already emerged in the private sector with health insurance companies encouraging their clients to use wearable fitness devices to earn rewards for maintaining a healthier lifestyle.

At the All Things D conference, held at the end of May in San Francisco, American venture capitalist Mary Meeker said that wearable computing is emerging as the type of significant technology shift that will drive innovation in the way personal computing did in the 1980s or mobile computing and tablets are doing currently. While technology cycles generally last 10 years, she said wearables were coming on stronger and faster than is typical.

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