Wearable tech isn’t exactly new

But the boom has only just begun.

Wearable tech has been a hotly debated subject lately. Innovations like Google Glass have made watches, shoes and other accessories a popular commodity, once they’re upgraded with various types of communicative technology. At the moment, the market for wearable tech has a value of $3-5 billion. But according to a new report from the European banking giant Credit Suisse, the market value for wearable tech will grow ten-fold within the next 3-5 years.

Now, wearable tech isn’t exactly a new phenomenon. We’ve been wearing digital watches since 1970, and they’ve since grown to include various functions such as online chatting and cameras. In recent years, wristbands with diverse functions such as unlocking mechanisms for cars and homes, as well as measuring your pulse or counting the amount of steps you’ve taken in a day, have become a popular accessory for the tech-wise. The latest invention is the Google Glass project, which promises to translate your voice if you need to ask anything in Chinese, give you the answers to curious questions and show the way in case you get lost. All through a slim pair of interactive glasses.

Its no surprise then that two of Silicon Valley’s biggest names, including Apple’s Tim Cook, only last week surmounted that wearable tech is an interesting market at the moment.

Famed venture capitalist and internet trend guru, Mary Meeker, even went so far as to call wearable tech the next big thing.

With developments like these, Credit Suisse says the wearable tech market is on the verge of a sales boom. As such, the bank has recommended clients to invest in heavy hitters such as Apple and Google, as well as up-and-coming companies specialising in software and retail.

However, some people are still skeptical of the trend, pointing out that “big things” such as digital cameras, MP3’s and GPS’s are taking a back seat to the all-mighty smart-phone, which provides all functions in one gadget.

But according to Mary Meeker, wearable tech will likely pick up where the smartphone leaves off.

The average smartphone user checks their device 150 times a day. "What if you didn't have to do that?" Meeker asked at a recent convention, pointing out that the need for quick convenience might circumvent the digital equivalent to a Swiss army knife.  In this respect, a simple, wearable device with sensors could be the answer to our future needs.

However, as Tim Cook pointed out, there’s still a way to go, before iWatches and Google Glass can replace the smart-phone. For example, big data, which is the data-gathering technology used for such intuitive inventions, is still in the developmental phase. In the meantime, tech-companies need to consider that not everyone wants to wear glasses or a wristband if the functions aren’t exceptional compared to a smart-phone. So yes, I agree that wearable tech is an interesting development worth keeping your eyes and money on. But I’m not sure that the boom is quite there yet. Give it a year or two.

Photograph: Getty Images

Sandra Kilhof Nielsen is a freelance writer and former reporter for Retail Banker International, Cards International & Electronic Payments International.

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7 problems with the Snooper’s Charter, according to the experts

In short: it was written by people who "do not know how the internet works".

A group of representatives from the UK Internet Service Provider’s Association (ISPA) headed to the Home Office on Tuesday to point out a long list of problems they had with the proposed Investigatory Powers Bill (that’s Snooper’s Charter to you and me). Below are simplified summaries of their main points, taken from the written evidence submitted by Adrian Kennard, of Andrews and Arnold, a small ISP, to the department after the meeting. 

The crucial thing to note is that these people know what they're talking about - the run the providers which would need to completely change their practices to comply with the bill if it passed into law. And their objections aren't based on cost or fiddliness - they're about how unworkable many of the bill's stipulations actually are. 

1. The types of records the government wants collected aren’t that useful

The IP Bill places a lot of emphasis on “Internet Connection Records”; i.e. a list of domains you’ve visited, but not the specific pages visited or messages sent.

But in an age of apps and social media, where we view vast amounts of information through single domains like Twitter or Facebook, this information might not even help investigators much, as connections can last for days, or even months. Kennard gives the example of a missing girl, used as a hypothetical case by the security services to argue for greater powers:

 "If the mobile provider was even able to tell that she had used twitter at all (which is not as easy as it sounds), it would show that the phone had been connected to twitter 24 hours a day, and probably Facebook as well… this emotive example is seriously flawed”

And these connection records are only going to get less relevant over time - an increasing number of websites including Facebook and Google encrypt their website under "https", which would make finding the name of the website visited far more difficult.

2. …but they’re still a massive invasion of privacy

Even though these records may be useless when someone needs to be found or monitored, the retention of Internet Connection Records (IRCs) is still very invasive – and can actually yield more information than call records, which Theresa May has repeatedly claimed are the non-digital equivalent of ICRs. 

Kennard notes: “[These records] can be used to profile them and identify preferences, political views, sexual orientation, spending habits and much more. It is useful to criminals as it would easily confirm the bank used, and the time people leave the house, and so on”. 

This information might not help find a missing girl, but could build a profile of her which could be used by criminals, or for over-invasive state surveillance. 

3. "Internet Connection Records" aren’t actually a thing

The concept of a list of domain names visited by a user referred to in the bill is actually a new term, derived from “Call Data Record”. Compiling them is possible, but won't be an easy or automatic process.

Again, this strongly implies that those writing the bill are using their knowledge of telecommunications surveillance, not internet era-appropriate information. Kennard calls for the term to be removed, or at least its “vague and nondescript nature” made clear in the bill.

4. The surveillance won’t be consistent and could be easy to dodge

In its meeting with the ISPA, the Home Office implied that smaller Internet service providers won't be forced to collect these ICR records, as it would use up a lot of their resources. But this means those seeking to avoid surveillance could simply move over to a smaller provider.

5. Conservative spin is dictating the way we view the bill 

May and the Home Office are keen for us to see the surveillance in the bill as passive: internet service providers must simply log the domains we visit, which will be looked at in the event that we are the subject of an investigation. But as Kennard notes, “I am quite sure the same argument would not work if, for example, the law required a camera in every room in your house”. This is a vast new power the government is asking for – we shouldn’t allow it to play it down.

6. The bill would allow our devices to be bugged

Or, in the jargon, used in the draft bill, subjected to “equipment interference”. This could include surveillance of everything on a phone or laptop, or even turning on its camera or webcam to watch someone. The bill actually calls for “bulk equipment interference” – when surely, as Kennard notes, “this power…should only be targeted at the most serious of criminal suspects" at most.

7. The ability to bug devices would make them less secure

Devices can only be subject to “equipment interference” if they have existing vulnerabilities, which could also be exploited by criminals and hackers. If security services know about these vulnerabilities, they should tell the manufacturer about them. As Kennard writes, allowing equipment interference "encourages the intelligence services to keep vulnerabilities secret” so they don't lose surveillance methods. Meanwhile, though, they're laying the population open to hacks from cyber criminals. 


So there you have it  – a compelling soup of misused and made up terms, and ethically concerning new powers. Great stuff. 

Barbara Speed is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman and a staff writer at CityMetric.