Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Wearables: Personal Data & Sharing

Since writing the first 2 articles of this series, the GDPR has come into force in Europe. Most people have seen this as a hassle; being asked to opt back into a plethora of email newsletters. But there is a wider effect in terms of storing and sharing personal data.

To get tangible rewards for exercising, you need to store your data somewhere, and you can (and should) get more rewards for sharing your results with your friends. After all, you’re helping to motivate them to exercise too (or use the same app or wearable). But at the same time, there’s a question about how the data is used, from selling you a new pair of running shoes, to reducing your health insurance premium.

Tim Berners-Lee says we need to take back control of our data. Sure, it needs to be stored somewhere, but we, the user should be able to define exactly who our data is shared with, and how it is used.

There is often a debate (between fitness industry professionals) about the accuracy of wearable data. Heart rate monitors like MyZone are the best for a gym bunny in a spin class, there’s no doubt. But a de-conditioned person looking to simply move more is much more likely to wear a watch, wristband, belt or necklace, and if their moves are not super accurate, it’s not really an issue. There are a lot more de-conditioned people out there in the UK at least.

Most people are much more likely to wear a watch as a fashion accessory; sharing (by simply wearing) that they are a fan of fitbit/apple/etc. The Fitbit has become a fashion accessory, whereas the MyZone belt is likely hidden under your t-shirt or embedded in your bra.

It is unlikely that GDPR is going to have a big effect on the rise of wearables, assuming people continue to buy into the sharing economy and companies continue to do the right thing and be considerate about personal data.

For athletes and keen gym members, accuracy is a factor, and products like MyZone deliver what they want. But for the general public (a much bigger data set), the three important factors are counting steps, sharing, and fashion.

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