How safe is your wearable device?

Sep 01 2014, 23:25 IST
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SummaryFitness monitors, electronic wristbands or smart watches—consumers in India are willing to pay for and use wearable devices. Without the right security controls, data gathered by such activity-tracking devices could enable identity theft, stalking, fraud and other crimes.

In a consumer electronics world dominated by smartphones, HDTVs, laptop computers and tablet PCs, a new market category is generating significant consumer buying interest: wearable technologies. Each day, millions of people worldwide are actively recording every aspect of their lives, thoughts, experiences, and achievements in an activity known as self-tracking. People who engage in self-logging via wearable devices such as fitness monitors, do so for tracking physical activity and managing their personal wealth. Given the amount of personal data being generated, transmitted, and stored at various locations, privacy and security are important considerations for users of these devices and applications. IT security firm Symantec has found security risks in a large number of self-tracking

devices and applications. More on it later, first a look at the high interest in wearable technologies.

A new Accenture survey (Accenture’s Digital Consumer Tech Survey 2014) found that more than half of consumers (52%) are interested in buying wearable technologies such as fitness monitors for tracking physical activity and managing their personal wealth. The survey of more than 6,000 people in six countries—Australia, Canada, India, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States—showed that many are also interested in buying smart watches (46%) and Internet-connected eyeglasses (42%).

Wearable technologies deliver a wide range of capabilities: fitness monitors track a person’s heart rate and calories burned, while Internet-connected eyeglass displays enable consumers to browse the Internet, take digital photos and receive hands-free notifications. Among the six countries, consumers in India were most interested in buying fitness monitors (80%), smart watches (76%) and Internet-enabled eyeglasses (74%).

How do self-tracking systems work?

Many people who engage in self-tracking do it with gadgets such as electronic wristbands, smart watches, pendants, and even smart clothing. These gadgets typically contain a number of sensors, a processor, memory, and a communication interface. These gadgets enable the user to effortlessly collect, store, and transmit the data to another computer for processing and analysis.

Despite the growing use of specifically designed gadgets, smartphones are perhaps the most common way for people to perform self-tracking. A modern smartphone is packed with a wide range of different sensors that can be used by many different self-tracking applications. Many people already carry smartphones with them, and the proliferation of free self-tracking apps makes it easier than ever for users to get into self-tracking.

To start self-tracking, users simply choose from a wide range of apps in the various app markets, install one

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