The Quantified Self: The trend behind the CES wearables race

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The Basis Band – Sleep tracker (credit: Hotdigitalnews.com)

Looking at CES coverage this month (and the wealth of trend round-ups in the FT, CNet and, The Guardian and many more sources) has been an exercise in finding out whether there is anything you can’t measure about yourself with a wearable device. Since the launch of Google Glass the common question in 2011-3 regarding whether wearables will go mainstream appears to have been replaced with an all-out race to win the battle for consumer awareness in this sector.

I had a really interesting chat yesterday with Tamara Sword, a company founder, HuffPost blogger and fellow QS fan about the move  from Big Data to ‘body data‘. When we have this level of self insight, we can use this not only for fitness and health, but also to help us become better, more effective and prosperous people, which is ultimately the premise of the trend that preceded this hardware trend –  namely The Quantified Self –  acquiring self knowledge through numbers.

To some outside of the technology world the use of personal is primarily seen as something intimidating  or associated with intrusions on people’s privacy, but what I find exciting about the QS – the trend behind the wearables race – is that masses of personal data –  when handled ethically – can  help data scientists in tandem with social innovators to find solutions to pressing societal issues – a theme explored during the latest TEDx London. We already have the ability to envision (and in some cases create) smart cities with smart uses of Big Data – if we can use ‘body data’ to benchmark ourselves with others we can also have a ‘smarter’ experience of ourselves.

However, the challenges and potential dangers in terms of this personal data being hackable shouldn’t be ignored –  not to mention considering how wearables factor into the BYOD picture when we are at work. and interestingly the legal sphere, which is often late to the party in terms of addressing some of the challenges that may arise has proven quick to the mark in terms of looking at the risks.

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