How insurers could turn smartwatches against the wearer

How insurers could turn smartwatches against the wearer

The rise of wearable technology will do wonders for personal tracking but digital experts believe the data collected by smart watches and the like could be turned on the wearer.

B&T Magazine
Posted by B&T Magazine

A watch or band that tracks the wearer’s steps, maps out their consumption habits and counts calories consumed and burned would be a dream for the health conscious.

There are numerous products aimed at such individuals, including FitBits, FuelBand by Nike and many more.

But what if the data collected by these devices and their more sophisticated counterparts that are yet to come could be turned against the wearer by health and insurance companies?

“The optimistic me sees an era where data generated by citizens, corporations and governments alike will be more transparent ushering in a world of truly valuable discourse,” Tim Devine, DT’s creative technologist, told B&T.

But the pessimist in Devine tells him he will end up paying more for his health insurance due to his caffeine consumption and the fact his swimming technique does him more harm than good.

Imagine this scenario painted by CumminsRoss’ new chief digital officer, Scott Heron.

“If I am wearing my iWatch in an area of town where there is a crime – is my insurance going to go up?

“People will only use these devices if they feel their data is being respected and protected.”

Andrew Lark, chief executive of Group Lark, believes we need to protect our data and become more conscious of what it is going to be used for.

“That our data can be used to solve issues of significance is great. That it is aggregated to create wealth for a few, not so good,” he added.

According to Lark the wearable technology race is currently hottest in sensor-based devices.

“What the smartphone did for communications, they will do for personal tracking,” Lark, the former head marketer for Commonwealth Bank, told B&T.

Lark predicts that wearable technology will become “absolutely mainstream”, with everyone owning two or three different devices.

“Don’t focus on the form factor though, we are just at the earliest stages of seeing what works.”

Ciaran Norris, chief digital officer Mindshare, doubts that in their current form wearable technology such as smartwatches will have the uptake of an iPhone or iPod.

He believes the real future lies in taking the idea of the quantified self and applying them to the home.

“You can already see it in terms of smart meters but where it gets really interesting is when you think about heating that automatically equalises based on the season; lights that are attuned to your needs so that they switch on when your phone tells them you’re just outside; washing machines you can turn on with a tweet.”

“For this reason, it may well be Samsung that takes the lead in this space, rather than Google or Apple.”

For more on wearable technology and what it will mean for media, privacy, marketing and advertising pick up the next edition of B&T Magazine, October 13.

The News Analysis will feature Devine, Lark, Heron, Norris and Finch’s Emad Tahtouh also discussing which company will come out on top, why the best developments are yet to come and what normal household item they want to see become ‘smart’.