Zachary Lee Ee San, 41, Assistant Vice President Sales in Singapore
For runners like myself, for whom armbands and chest straps are more of an annoyance, this t-shirt is a great alternative. The chest strap is already built in! And the sensors measure a lot more data than wrist-worn fitness trackers: heart rate, breathing rate, breath volume and steps per minute are recorded and individually analyzed. It also includes the resting pulse rate, evaluation of the time needed for recovery and the correct training zones with respect to heartbeat. Actually, there’s so much data you have to be careful not to get distracted from your exercising!
Raising the alarm
This is exactly the sort of thing that worries many people and that attracts privacy activists. What could be more intimate than data about your own body? The data protection commissioners of the German federal government and German federal states warned in spring 2016 that numerous wearables “share the recorded data with other people or entities without the concerned parties knowing about it or having made a conscious decision about it.” What is more, inadequate technology could lead to health-related information being unintentionally disclosed.
Federal Data Protection Commissioner Andrea Voßhoff has specifically warned that indeed wearables offer additional benefits to the individual medically, but they carry considerable risk. This results in a mass of data being stored that, when combined with other data, allows for a comprehensive profile of the person to be put together. The use of certain health-related data could thus be subject to limitations, based on new basic data protection regulations from the European Union.
“People are worried about losing their data,” says Asli Solmaz-Kaiser, Head of Electrics and Electronics International at TÜV SÜD. “That’s understandable and an inhibiting factor for the wider use of wearables. We need clear, comprehensible standards to guarantee data security and to increase people’s confidence.” TÜV SÜD certifies wearables with special testing programs for the devices’ measuring precision, suitability for use and security—in order to increase people’s confidence in this new technology over the long term. “Some wearables still exhibit significant defects in functionality and pose both security and health risks,” Solmaz-Kaiser warns. “Not all of them are technically sophisticated.
Asli Solmaz-Kaiser, Head of Electrics and Electronics International at TÜV SÜD
"We need clear, comprehensible standards to guarantee data security and to increase people’s confidence."
The danger of manipulation
Some scientific studies have shown that the minicomputers and their software could easily be manipulated by hackers in many cases. Solmaz-Kaiser: “Beyond this, wearables don’t accomplish what the users expect of them. One example: the self-tracker from some manufacturers doesn’t measure the heart rate as precisely as would be necessary for medical purposes.”
To change this, TÜV SÜD is fully cooperating with developers and is monitoring the entire product cycle as an expert: both for device development as well as for the technical testing phase before market entry, in certification as well as monitoring. If the wearable fulfills the security and safety standards, the manufacturer can have this confirmed with an international certification.
As a next step, wearables will be changing their outward appearance. At the moment people wear the devices on their bodies as a wristband, necklace or pair of glasses. There are already first applications for smart clothing. Smart tattoos —yes, tattoos with additional functions—might just be the next development. This special form of wearables would be directly incorporated into the body, which makes the topic of security and safety even more important. The era of linking people and software—it’s just getting started.