Big Data // Big Data Analytics
Commentary
2/24/2014
02:00 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Mobile World Congress: Are Wearables More Fragile Than Fun?

Mobile health apps and wearables on display at MWC are cool and beneficial, but privacy issues lie in wait.

Last week I watched Barcelona battle out a two to nil win against Manchester City in European Champions League soccer, and this week I'm in Barcelona for the champion event of all things mobile -- Mobile World Congress.

To put the massive scale of the conference into perspective, there are approximately 65,000 attendees. That's almost 20,000 more than the attendance at the aforementioned football match, where the likes of Lionel Messi (who scored a goal) parade their skills in front of the Manchester crowd. And while I'm not expecting to rub shoulders with the Argentinian maestro, I do anticipate being blown away by the latest cool tech in mobile, connected cities, and the Internet of Things.

One aspect of the show I'll be sure to check out is wearable computing -- especially connected health, fitness trackers, and health monitors. I'll be able to do this in real-time, since FitBit, a leading provider of wearable device activity trackers, is offering attendees a FitBit FLEX device to experience wearable tech as they pace the conference halls.

[MWC, the premier mobile trade show, will once again show plenty of smartphone goodies. Read Mobile World Congress: 5 Hot Gadgets]

I'll be able to monitor my activity, including the number of steps I take. Then I'll be able check out my results to confirm what I'll probably know already -- that my feet are tired, sore, and blistered from walking across a conference area that's one mile in length.

Aching feet aside, I've no doubt that health fitness trackers are fun and beneficial. If you're an athlete or just a jogging fanatic you can monitor your fitness goals and boast to family and friends via your personalized web page. Or if you're on a weight loss regime you can upload data from your smart-scale to your connected mobile app to check progress -- even using the app to earn badges of achievement as you strive to shed those extra calories.

FitBit Flex activity tracker.
FitBit Flex activity tracker.

Of course, there's an enterprise play too, with devices like Fitbit finding a place into corporate wellness programs; proactively helping reduce sick leave days and healthcare costs, while increasing employee productivity.  

All good you might say, but there are management aspects of wearable health monitoring (both at an individual and enterprise level) that require some careful thought -- especially in the area of security and information privacy.  

At an individual level, for example, I might have no problem gloating about my fitness with family and friends, but perhaps less so in a work context. So along with other sensitive and personally identifiable information, I'd want the data generated by fitness apps (on, let's say, the connected smartphone I use for work in a BYOD program) containerized and private. Similarly, as an enterprise security professional, I'd want to ensure that the influx of health related apps ("health apps" is the No. 1 category on the Apple app store), is carefully monitored and controlled to protect against damaging malware -- checking the security fitness of fitness apps, so to speak.

Apart from the more obvious security issues, the advent of wearable tech, ubiquitous connectivity, and big data may introduce more taxing privacy issues. So imagine a dystopian nightmare where information flows from your fitness device to your connected TV and you're bombarded with ads promoting healthier eating (not that unimaginable) -- or worse, where data is freely transferred to your insurance providers' systems, which can now dictate your premiums and discounts based on how fit you are, how regularly you use your connected exercise equipment, and what food you're eating -- and just when we thought getting fit was fun.

Of course, these types of issues will require closer scrutiny and oversight from government agencies. Only last year, the US Food and Drug Administration issued final guidance for developers of healthcare apps, stating it would only focus on apps that turn mobile devices into de facto medical devices -- like, for example, an app that transforms a smartphone into an ECG machine to detect heart problems.

But, as the convergence of mobility, cloud and big data accelerates, there'll be more privacy and safety issues to consider -- and hopefully we consider them before the first big mobile fitness/health information breach.

For now, I'm going to learn to love my Mobile World Congress fitness tracker. It'll never help me be as fit as Lionel Messi (or get anywhere near his sublime level of soccer skills), but it'll perhaps explain why my feet are so sore.

20,000 steps and counting...

Interop Las Vegas, March 31 to April 4, brings together thousands of technology professionals to discover the most current and cutting–edge technology innovations and strategies to drive their organizations' success, including BYOD security, the latest cloud and virtualization technologies, SDN, the Internet of things, and more. Attend educational sessions in eight tracks and visit an Expo Floor more than 350 top vendors. Register with Discount Code MPIWK for $200 off Total Access and Conference Passes. Early Bird Rates end Feb. 21. Find out more about Interop and register now.

Peter Waterhouse is a senior technical marketing advisor for CA Technologies' strategic alliance, service providers, cloud, and industry solutions businesses. View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
WKash
50%
50%
WKash,
User Rank: Author
3/3/2014 | 10:31:50 PM
Re: Moore's Law + 3D printing = cheap wearables
That reminds me of HP's wonderful 200LX PalmTop, which will date me as well, but was a brilliant device that packed all kinds of portable computing power into the palm of your hands long before the smartphone era. It was sad HP eventually abandoned it.

 
Marilyn Cohodas
50%
50%
Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Author
3/3/2014 | 9:45:55 AM
Re: Moore's Law + 3D printing = cheap wearables
What come to mind (and this totally dates me!) is how expensive pocket calculators were when they were first introduced. One of the early models -- The HP-35, launched by HP in 1972 -- retailed for $395 and that was in 1972 dollars! 



 

 
WKash
50%
50%
WKash,
User Rank: Author
2/28/2014 | 7:03:01 PM
Re: Moore's Law + 3D printing = cheap wearables
Marilyn, I have to agree, wearable devices are bound to get lost (or damaged) pretty easily, so the price points will need to be to the point where it won't be painful to replace them.
Marilyn Cohodas
50%
50%
Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Author
2/27/2014 | 8:15:32 AM
Re: Moore's Law + 3D printing = cheap wearables
You want stylish, Kristen? Check out this 3D printed bracelet courtesay of shapeways, a 3D 3Printing marketplace and community. Now if it could also tell time and deliver emails!

 

 
Kristin Burnham
50%
50%
Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
2/26/2014 | 9:02:23 PM
Re: Moore's Law + 3D printing = cheap wearables
If I'm going to invest in a wearable device like a smartwatch, I want it to look stylish. I'm not sure 3D printing is there yet. But I can see how 3D printing could be better suited for something like a fitness device.
Marilyn Cohodas
50%
50%
Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Author
2/26/2014 | 8:33:02 AM
Re: Moore's Law + 3D printing = cheap wearables
Maybe not supercheap, Wyatt, but if I'm wearing something there will be a good chance that I'll lose it or forget it, so it will need to be something that is not too much of a hardship to replace. (I can't imagine buying $10 a month insurance for every smart gadget that I buy). Your point about securing the data on the wearable is a good one, too. Probably a kill switch or something. Then again, that will add to the cost. But maybe not too much....
PeteJW
50%
50%
PeteJW,
User Rank: Strategist
2/25/2014 | 11:26:44 PM
Re: Wearable rewards
I agree - there's certainly going to be more featues added and they'll become more useful beyond the fitness community. In the health industries it'll also be interesting to see the blurring of lines between a mobile device and a piece of healthcare equipment -- eg. iPhone doubling as a ECG monitor (already happening) -- obviously issues around data privacy and compliance need to be considered now!
WKash
50%
50%
WKash,
User Rank: Author
2/25/2014 | 10:32:01 PM
Re: Moore's Law + 3D printing = cheap wearables
Interesting question, Marilyn.  My guess they won't need to be super cheap but cheap enough not care too much what happens to them. The problem remains though, what happens to the data that's captured on or through them? 
WKash
50%
50%
WKash,
User Rank: Author
2/25/2014 | 10:28:03 PM
Re: Wearable rewards
Shane, I agree, carrying my iphone around the gym to keep  track of my workout progress has it's drawbacks. So I'll be looking forward to that feature rich wrist band that has near-field communications and knows the difference between the leg press and the bicep curl  fitness machines and what weights I'm using and how many reps I've done.

 
PeteJW
50%
50%
PeteJW,
User Rank: Strategist
2/25/2014 | 6:40:51 PM
Re: Wearable rewards
Excellent point WKash - as with any of these devices I belive success depends on the ability to connect (via apps) to other elements that constitute to a fitness regime. Although not a wearble, Withings with their smart scales have achieved great success using this strategy -- not just because the device is cool, but because it's connected. I'm sure over time we'll see fitness trackers become more connected via apps and API's to many other devices. 
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
6 Tools to Protect Big Data
6 Tools to Protect Big Data
Most IT teams have their conventional databases covered in terms of security and business continuity. But as we enter the era of big data, Hadoop, and NoSQL, protection schemes need to evolve. In fact, big data could drive the next big security strategy shift.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest - July 22, 2014
Sophisticated attacks demand real-time risk management and continuous monitoring. Here's how federal agencies are meeting that challenge.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
A UBM Tech Radio episode on the changing economics of Flash storage used in data tiering -- sponsored by Dell.
Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.