When does wearable tech use case tip from useful to useless?

Earlier this week I read through the advert for a new wearable device coming out in the next couple of weeks in the UK. You can wear it on your wrist and it can do lots of great things, indeed we are considering it for a lone worker system in NRW. Like many other "wearables" this device can measure your heartbeat 24 hours a day, it can tell you when you have emails, monitor your sleep patterns, help you navigate, make sure you keep your appointments - even remind you to buy your other half a present on their birthday. It is seriously impressive.

But like Google Glass, I started to consider its purpose; is this really going to make me more productive, or will it be just another device I can waste time using? Surely I already know the important things I should be doing - notwithstanding the fact that I missed mother's day this year. Again.

But then it gets a bit scarier - do I want my location being uploaded to the cloud? Do I want my nocturnal heartbeat being stored and analysed in an app? And even if I did, what's the point?

The recent news story regarding Samsung TVs listening in on your conversations illustrates the issues of digital intrusion. These new voice recognition televisions work by sending your commands up to the cloud for interpretation by a specialised Samsung service. The problem is it's not just commands - it seems all your conversation gets sent up.

Now, while I don't typically talk about matters of national security while watching The Sopranos I still feel it would be uncomfortable that potentially there is an opportunity for my private conversations to be intercepted should I purchase one of these televisions. However, my current TV has a remote control and that seems to work just fine. Indeed, if I feel like shouting things at an unresponsive and largely inanimate object, I can just speak to my 17-year-old son instead.

Not for the first time in human history do we seem to be producing products for which there is little purpose. But that doesn't mean people won't buy them!

In the case of this particular device, should our trial work, I hope it will prove an excellent lone worker system for our staff who often work alone in remote or dangerous locations and sometimes with machinery too. But I will be making sure that we don't capture their sleeping patterns, or where they go after they clock off from work.

After all, George Orwell's dystopian classic 1984 was a warning, not an instruction manual.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

Security vs. innovation: IT's trickiest balancing act