Wearables – Are They In It For The Data?


Consumer Wearables are incredibly difficult to design, manufacture and ultimately release.  Most consumer Wearable software platforms are proprietary and take years to design and develop.  The hardware and software build out for wearables can be more unpredictable if the company building it is a startup.  Startups don’t have the connections in China to the huge manufacturers and find it very difficult to select a suitable one that can meet their deadlines and specific hardware requirements.    The hardware needed for these wearable products  is changing quickly and great demand.   There isn’t a great profit to be made from a wearable product unless you have great reach like Fitbit, Jawbone or Apple.   Why would a company get involved in a low-profit margin product in the first place?  It isn’t the hardware that is going to make them money.  The software in most of these products arei designed to collect your raw data and upload it, usually to a cloud-based platform where it is analyzed and  the metrics assigned to your profile.   This offers the user some great insights on several health and fitness metrics and can help show patterns of activity that lead to better results.   The problem with the data they collect is that THEY OWN THE DATA.   The data, once collected in bulk, by hundreds of thousands of users is where the real money can be made.  It is important to read the privacy policies of these companies because they usually state that they are authorized to use your data.  If you are lucky, they claim to anonymize your information into gender, age and fitness baskets and that none of your personal identifying data is wmade public.  It is still your most personal and private data that you are giving away for free to a company is telling you that they plan to collect all of it and SELL it.   These smaller companies can’t make a huge sum of money off hardware.   The Pebble smart watch was one of the few startups to really make it big and I would assume that they are rethinking their game plan at this stage of the wearable game.  As sensors get more advanced and the data they can collect will get more personal and invasive.  Who is to say that these companies are only collecting the data that they show you on your app?   In the near future, these companies will have access to all of your raw health and fitness data.  They will have a robust database with your age, height, weight, gender, activity level, pulse rate, location and much more.   Yes, it would be cool if one of these young startups was purchased by Apple and they used that data for the intended purpose of making wearables that could help the consumers reach health and fitness goals.  If could be the complete opposite if an insurance or health provider purchased the data to use for other reasons.  I don’t think that it would be legal at this point, but what if your health care provider could raise your rates because you fit into a generic category based on metrics collected from people your age, gender, height and weight? What if your insurance provider required you to maintain a set number of steps each day to keep your monthly premium at the same price?  We are living in a connected world and we are freely uploading our weight from connected scales, our blood pressure from connected bp monitors and our health and fitness information from a million devices out there.    Is our data being used for good? How are these companies anonymizing our data?   How secure are they?  How much is my data worth to me?