The Dark Side of Wearables, Biometrics and our Connected Everything Existence

by Jeff Wiener on May 15, 2015

Even with the wearables industry still in its early stages it’s clear to see the strong connection such technology will have with biometrics, that is, the connection it will create between technology and us as human beings. As it stands our fledgling wearable gadgets can already track our heart rates, learn our biorhythms, and divine our moods; one can only imagination what future generations of wearable technology will be able to do (I simultaneously delight and shudder at the thought).

For you see, for all the upsides of further integration of technology with us as biological organisms, there is a distinct dark side to this technology as well; for although it will undoubtedly help us stay healthier, live longer, and be more effective and efficient in our daily lives those benefits will come at a cost, and it seems the cost will be, in large part, the control over our most personal information, our biological data.

As tech start-up visionary David Plans—the founder of BioBeats, a company that builds apps and devices that sync your music to your heartbeat—noted at the Nimbus Ninety Ignite Conference in London this week, there is something distinctly “sinister” and “Orwellian” about the future growth of wearables, where the biological information such tech is able to glean from us could actually be used against us.

Before the dystopian prophecies about our beloved gadgets being turned against us gets out of hand, let me say that the benefits of the growth of the wearables industry to the human race will be monumental…it just remains to be seen whether those benefits outweigh the negatives on the whole.

Take Plans’ BioBeats company as an example, a start-up that recently developed the “Breathing Stone,” a connected device that is able to sync your music with your heartbeat, a quirky little gadget that has already seen success in deployment in the healthcare industry.

If that’s the sort of things connected gadgets can offer us today, just imagine what tomorrow will bring, with wearables able to help predict, assess, and treat an endless variety of ailments, offering the sorts of early detection and intervention we currently only dream about.

In fact, it reminds me of a life insurance commercial I saw recently, where seemingly regular people were given notices that they would suffer a major medical emergency later that day. The point of the ad was, of course, that such foresight is currently unavailable to us, and thus we need to be covered just in case. But there will come a day when such a scenario will become reality.

Perhaps it’s really no surprise, then, that the insurance industry will likely be involved in the darker, more sinister side of wearables in the coming years, for as Plans explains, “some of the insurance providers we work with want to calculate insurance premiums in real-time,” attempting to gain the upper-hand in diagnosing potentially high risk individuals…and subsequently rejecting them.

The problem is, of course, that the more advanced our wearables become the more information they will collect, information that may not be as secure as we think given our growing connected everything existence.

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