Consumer Wearables and Retail

10th August 2015

Wearable technology is gradually moving from a novelty or gimmick into a necessity for everyday life and work. Of course, we have some way to go before everyone is paying for groceries with their smartwatch, or checking their diaries on their heads-up displays, but wearables are much more in the public consciousness than they were just a couple of years ago.

Wearables linking up to iBeacons and the Internet of Things is becoming a trend which many retailers, event organisers and businesses are picking up on. The potential for increased customer interaction and efficiency of service is obvious, and large businesses such as Tesco are beginning to test the waters of how IoT technology can be used.

Safety First

There are some issues with this of course, with privacy being a big concern for consumers. A vast array of data can be recorded on wearable devices with many users willing to give up this information freely in exchange for extensive “self-profiling”. Health and location data can be recorded by devices, however with retail outlets employing iBeacon technology, you may be giving up your data without even knowing it. Not only is location data something you may want to keep private, but the security of your data once it’s in the hands of the retailers should also be considered. As stated on Information Age:

“The EU requires that wearables have easily accessible, clearly worded terms of service or privacy policies that explain how and what third parties will have access to data collected on the user’s device”.

It would be impractical for stores to present customers with terms and conditions or make them sign data consent forms before entering, so it will be interesting to see how companies navigate the legal minefield surrounding wearables and data privacy.



No Guarantees

It may be that consumers simply aren’t phased by the lack of clarity or guarantee of security that wearables and iBeacons offer though. According to a survey conducted by Healthline, approximately 25% of people do not feel their data is secure on a Fitbit or other health tracking app. However, 15% of those surveyed actually own a Fitbit or health tracking device. Less than half of wearable and health app users were worried that their data could be stolen from their health wearable. While there is concern, wearables and fitness trackers are still popular and despite not having complete peace of mind, people continue to use them.

Too Much Too Soon?

We are certain to see a lot more wearable technology in the consumer market over the next few years, but with the Apple Watch seemingly failing to meet expectations and Google Glass being taken off the shelves perhaps developers are getting ahead of themselves. Wearables are undoubtedly useful in the workplace, particularly  in industries such as construction and healthcare. However, IoT issues and BYOD complexities may be holding them back in office environments. The consumer market looks tough to break for wearables creators, but once security and data management issues are addressed, the sceptics might be able to be convinced.