Wearable technology is widely predicted to be the next big wave in mobility, with innovations like the Pebble watch and Google Glass providing a glimpse of what the future could look like. But new research has revealed that 8 million people in Britain are already using wearables, and 16 million are planning to use them when they become more widely available.
Of those that are already using the wearable technology in Britain, 71 percent believe that it has enhanced their lives, according to the survey of 4,000 adults carried out by the University of London on behalf of Rackspace. Users in the US are even more enthusiastic, with 82 percent of those surveyed claiming the same.
One in three UK respondents believe that wearable tech has helped their career development, 63 percent say it has improved their health and fitness, 53 percent say helps them feel more in control of their lives, 46 percent say it has boosted their self-confidence, 39 percent say they feel more intelligent and 27 percent say it has even enhanced their love 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. Cloud computing is powering the wearable technology revolution. It allows the data generated by wearable devices to be captured, analysed and made readily accessible whenever users need it.”
Chris Brauer, co-director of CAST at Goldsmiths, University of London, added that the rich data created by wearable technology will drive the rise of the “human cloud”, and form an integral part of the Internet of Things.
This data provides countless opportunities, from connecting with third parties to provide more tailored and personalised services to working closer with healthcare institutions to get a better understanding of their patients.
“We are already seeing wearable technology being used in the private sector with health insurance firms encouraging members to use wearable fitness devices to earn rewards for maintaining a healthier lifestyle. It is likely that the public sector will look to capitalise on the wearable technology trend with a view to boosting telehealth and smart city programs,” said Brauer.
However, these use cases throw up serious privacy concerns. According to the survey, only 19 percent of Brits would be willing to use a wearable device that monitors location for central government activity, and only one in three would be willing to use a wearable health and fitness monitor that shares personal data with the NHS or healthcare provider.
Meanwhile, almost two thirds (62 percent) think Google Glass and other wearable devices should be regulated in some form, while one in five (20 percent) are calling for these devices to be banned entirely.
“Wearable technology takes many different forms and in some cases poses no privacy risk whatsoever. What's key is that the principles we already have, particularly that if you process information about someone you have their permission, are not lost in the rush to embrace shiny new tech,” said Nick Pickles, director of privacy and civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch.
“However, this also further blurs the line between consumer technology and surveillance, especially when you realise law enforcement agencies around the world can go direct to the service provider and access the data your device has uploaded.”
He added: “The risk is that we all become part of the data acquisition and mining process in a mistaken view of being customers, when the value of our data is held by a few large multinational corporations and we only see a fraction of the true value of the data we're providing.”
Juniper Research predicted earlier this year that almost 70 million smart wearable devices will be sold in 2017, up from 15 million sales in 2013. The wearable device market is expected to be worth more than $1.5 billion (£935 million) in 2014.