Smartphones and wearables – Are they as good as they seem?
Everywhere you go these days you will find people glued to gadgets. Gadgets have become the primary means of both social as well as business communication. In the area of sports, wearable devices such as
wristbands and stretch sensor fabrics are being extensively used to monitor activities. In the area of medicine pressure cuffs and pacemakers make life easier for both physicians and their patients. In the social arena, social media has become the popular means of communicating. Social media is also being used for marketing products and eliciting consumer feedback. This extensive use of technology in our lives raises some questions.
- How are smart phones and wearables affecting the quality of our lives?
Putting your mobile device into your pocket or carry-bag is now an integral part of the dressing routine of most individuals. People prefer to “chat” on social media such as WhatsApp and Facebook rather than picking up the phone and making a call. You will find people driving while connected to their phones using earplugs. The dependence on technology is initiated in childhood when children prefer to do math on the calculator, use Word to write, or play online rather than with their friends. This overuse of gadgets is draining our emotional energy. No longer are we “in touch”; we simply “stay in touch”. We do not connect; we only “stay connected”. Even when you do call, you are likely to encounter an electronic voice telling you whose phone you have reached and that you will get a “call back”.
This puts paid to your reason for calling which was probably just listening to a loving voice. The earlier generation had loads of time to play outdoor games. The GenX plays these games in sports clubs and gyms. The older generation sat down for dinner exchanging titbits from the events during the day. The GenX has a spoon in one hand and an iPod on the other. Earlier we could simply drop in to visit a friend or relative. Today you are expected to “call before you come” and even then you may be told that the person you want to visit is unavailable. Some say this is as it should be while others bemoan the loss of humanity. It depends on which side of the coin you are looking at. On a more serious note though.
- Does the use of smartphones and wearables impact our health and that of our near and dear ones?
Pacemakers and wristbands are devices that are designed to help you monitor your health. You can message your doctor with your problems and get an instant prescription. Your family physician has all your health information at his fingertips and can guide and direct you remotely. Hospitals store patient data for as long the patient is alive and often beyond that too. If you have the misfortune to undergo a procedure that requires admittance to a hospital, your passage is smooth and well-oiled by technology from the point you enter and fill in the admission form to the time when you check out and claim insurance.
In fact, healthcare is the one area where technology can play the most significant role. There is however a flip side to the coin. Quoting Dr. Martin Blank of Columbia University, “We have created something that is harming us, and it is getting out of control”. Dr. Blank warns that radiation from connected devices damage the cells and can cause premature death. Are wearables then the right way to go? According to FoxNews, most wearables use Bluetooth technology, which have much lower levels of radiation. The trick then is to strike the right balance between need and harm. The question you should be asking is not whether the device will cause harm but whether the benefits from the device outweigh the harm it will cause.
- Does Big Data play a role?
The simplest answer to this is, yes. Big data does play a part and a big one at that. The concept of big data is not a new one. People share a lot of private information via the internet. A lot of this information is stored for the purpose of analysis and data mining. Privacy therefore becomes a major concern. Another concern that is probably more serious than privacy is that of ownership. When people share all sorts of information on sites like Facebook and Google, is this data owned by the individual or the company? What are the legal ramifications in case of theft and misuse? It is useful to collect behavioural data from the internet, but how would you like the world to know what you were searching for? According to Professor Matthias Hagen, you can build a great profile by knowing what someone was searching for in the last few minutes. The question however is does that person need your help? Is he asking you to profile him and aid his search? Or would he rather search on his own, secure in the knowledge that privacy is intact?
- In all this hue-and-cry how much is fact and how much is myth?
When Instagram claimed the right to sell photographs uploaded by users, people began questioning the ownership of data posted on Instagram and its owner, Facebook. What turned out was that although Facebook terms and conditions state that “you own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared,” this is followed by a disclaimer retaining the right to use any content that the user may post. Another myth debunked by Laptopmag is that cell phones can cause cancer. This is not a scientifically proven fact.
Laptomag also quotes Jeffrey Jurist, president of Spy Associates, a tracking device manufacturer, as saying, “Any signal requires power to transmit.” It is therefore not true that cell phones can be tracked when switched off. Phone companies exploit this myth claiming that even if the phone is lost, it can be easily found using GPS. Summing up there are a whole lot of tech myths afloat on the internet and other networks. Not all of them are true. That is not to say that devices such as smartphones and wearables such as Google glass are “unhealthy”. But it pays to be careful when using these devices.