Wearable Technology: Expectations and Concerns

Wearable Technology: Expectations and Concerns

Wearable technology, ranging from Google glasses to smartphones merged with computers to create cuff-like devices, was once only the stuff of science fiction. That’s no longer the case and these and other innovative gizmos are expected to move quickly into acceptance as part of everyday 21 st century life.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which provides assurance, tax and advisory services to companies around the world, has just released an extensive report on wearable technology. It reveals user expectations and predicted advantages of the devices for business and consumers, as well as concerns over the potential privacy issues and other challenges companies may face as wearable technology moves into the workplace.

The Wearable Future

For the PwC’s report, 1,000 consumers, wearable technology experts and business executives were queried about their use of wearable technology and their perceptions of the devices’ impact on both individuals and the business arena. Social media chatter was also monitored and analyzed for trends.

According to PwC’s “The Wearable Future” survey, 20% of American adults currently own a wearable device (about the same number who were using tablets in 2012) and those numbers are expected to rise quickly over the next few years. However, while consumers are enthusiastic about future wearables, they do tend to have concerns about some of the products available today.

For example, fitness bands, smart watches and other wearables already on the market have not always lived up to expectations. 33% of those surveyed who bought a wearable technology device more than a year ago now say they rarely if ever use the device.

How have these current devices disappointed? The survey participants cite privacy and security concerns, with 86% of respondents worried that wearable technology could make them more vulnerable to security breaches. However, 53% of the younger, millennial generation survey participants and 54% of early adopters of high-tech wearables expressed enthusiasm about the future of technology.

Overall, “The Wearable Future” survey found these applications of wearable technology especially appealing:
  • More than 80% of those polled said keeping track of eating healthier, exercising smarter and accessing more convenient medical care ranked high among the benefits they believe wearable technology can provide.
  • 90% of survey participants expressed the importance of being able to monitor their children’s safety via wearable technology.
  • 73% of respondents expect wearable technology to make media and entertainment more immersive and fun; the expectations were highest among millennials (79%).

Wearables and Business

The PwC research concludes that both the consumer market and the business to business (B2B) market stand to be radically changed as wearable technology becomes commonplace. For example, widespread use of wearable devices will create new ways to collect customer data and to market products and services. However, the survey notes, for organizations to embrace wearable technology in a way that is effective, they will need to build a foundation of trust about the data collected and how it’s used – both with clients and customers and with employees.

Other Findings About Wearable Technology and the Workplace:
  • 70% of respondents say they expect their organizations to allow the use of wearable technology in the workplace.
  • 77% of survey participants believe wearable technology has the potential to make employees more efficient and more productive at work.
  • Respondents expect CIOs and IT departments to shepherd the technology into the workplace.
  • 46% say they believe companies should fund the wearable technology for employees, rather than ask workers to use BYOD (bring your own device) models.
  • On the financial end, payment processing is expected to get a boost from wearable technology.

Wearable Technology and Employee Health

In conjunction with the “The Wearable Future” survey, PwC’s Health Research Institute (HRI) launched a separate report, “Health wearables: Early days.” This research concludes that while employers and health company executives expect wearable technology to provide valuable insights into the health status of individuals, consumers are concerned about privacy issues and the unwarranted sharing of health information.

The report emphasizes that companies should ensure they have crystal clear privacy policies in place about wearable technology and any health data the devices collect.

“Wearable data can be used by insurers and employers to better manage health, wellness and healthcare costs, by pharmaceutical and life sciences companies to run more robust clinical trials, and by healthcare providers to capture data to support outcomes-based reimbursement. But it will be critical to address the consumer concerns that we’ve identified, such as cost, privacy, and ease of use,” Vaughn Kauffman, principal, PwC Health Industries, said in a media statement.

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