This article on “Wearables and Big Data” examines the connection between wearable technology and the ever-growing amount of data, Big Data. Various wearable devices will be presented in connection with the possible uses in the private and business sectors, and then the topic of big data, the potential and possible risks will be explained.
Big Data Basics
The term big data describes the exponentially growing amount of unstructured data that can come from many different sources. The aim is to store, analyze and make use of the unstructured data. Due to the large amounts of data that are recorded, one has to differentiate between three aspects.
Volume: Data volume is growing exponentially every year, for example, global data volume increased by 43.25% from 1.227 exabytes (2010) to 2.837 exabytes (2011). These amounts of data require high storage capacities and computing power for evaluation.
Variety: Today, a large amount of data has to be differentiated, and unstructured data in particular makes evaluation and storage in classic relational databases more difficult. In relational databases, the data is stored as data records and is therefore structured in the form of tables. This structuring is not always possible for a large number of different data and thus makes data management more difficult. The variety of data can be further divided into structured, partially structured and unstructured data.
Velocity: The speed of data collection has increased significantly in recent years. Data can be recorded in real-time, which means that large amounts of new data are generated in a short time. The second component of speed is processing the captured data to make it usable. Timely processing of the recorded data requires high computing power and, at the same time, high data capacity.
The goal is to generate added value from the unstructured, diverse data, which is referred to as “smart data”. Smart data describes the processing and evaluation of the collected data and the generation of value added value. Recorded data provide information about states or measured values and serve as information for further procedures or processes. By creating intelligent relationships between the information, results can be derived and forecasts can be made. The data now has added value and is changing from big data to smart data.
Wearables refers to electronics that can be worn on the body, as an accessory or part of a piece of clothing. The decisive factor here is the connection to a smartphone, tablet or the Internet to use the recorded data. However, the connection to another device (smartphone/tablet) is not necessary, since there are also independent wearables that use a SIM card. Wearables can be different components and cannot be limited to one type. For example, there are smartwatches, cameras, fitness bracelets or jewellery, all of which can fall under the wearable category.
The largest areas continue to be fitness/healthcare and smartwatches (belonging to the lifestyle area ). As part of the case study, we look at the following 3 core areas: Smartwatches, Health-Wear, and Eye-Wear.
Smartwatches are probably the best-known and most widespread wearable that is currently on the market. A large number of manufacturers compete with each other, with different models and strategies. The first smartwatch was presented by Microsoft at the CES in Las Vegas in 2003, at that time still referred to as SPOT (Smart Personal Object Technology). However, this has hardly anything in common with the current Smartwatch models. The big breakthrough came with the introduction of Android Wear in March 2014. For the first time, there was a common platform for smartwatches, which manufacturers such as Motorola, LG and Samsung used. As a counterpart, Apple introduced the Apple Watch in 2014, with a proprietary operating system and exclusive use with iOS devices. The functions of smartwatches are designed to control smartphones and are intended to simplify and speed up the operation. Messages and news can be read on the smartwatch, or the music can be controlled. This is made possible by connecting the smartwatch to the smartphone via Bluetooth.
The health wear sector is becoming more and more important. You can monitor vital data, including heart rate, breathing, movement or physical activity. This is the area with the highest potential due to increasing awareness of nutrition and fitness. The variety of devices is immense, both in terms of manufacturers and models, as well as the range of functions. Few devices have a pulse sensor, but pedometers or motion sensors are now standard.
Eyewear is an underdeveloped area. Google took the first step in the direction of eyewear with the Google Glass project, but the project has since been discontinued. The potential is not yet as developed as that of the other areas, as the technological requirements are significantly higher. Decisive is the acceptance by the customers and the usability in everyday life. To become suitable for the masses, further developments are necessary. In addition, the prices for eyewear are significantly higher in comparison and thus have a deterrent effect on some potential buyers.
Not all of the possible areas of application have been exhausted at the moment, but the development of sales shows that wearables are becoming increasingly important.
Wearables and Big Data
Consumers are very interested in wearables, especially healthhwear and smartwatches. According to a survey, 29% of the users prefer wearables to attach to clothing, 28% wearables for the wrist and 18% integrated into shoes. In these areas, the range of products is correspondingly large and the number of manufacturers is high.
Health-Wear/Fitness has the most products as the demand for advanced sports equipment has increased in recent years. With the help of wearables, every user can control their performance and share it with others on social media platforms.
Smartwatch usage is also steadily increasing as new vendors proliferate and price fall. The high prices prevent many customers from buying since the prices are comparable to mid-range smartphones. For this price segment, many customers do not see the need for a smartwatch and the range of functions is not sufficient. There are also combination products that offer the functionality of a smartwatch and can be used in the health/fitness area. An example of this is the Samsung Galaxy smartwatch.
The use of wearables in the business sector is still marginal. Even if wearables are on the rise in the private sector, it is still not enough for business use. The development of eyewear for use in construction in civil engineering or mechanical engineering is interesting. With the help of eye-wear, the plans could be visible right in front of the eyes and the user can continue working without interruption. However, the development is not that far advanced and in the business area the products have to be mature. It will therefore still be some time before wearables will find their way into the business sector on a large scale.
Wearables can store live data or transmit it to a smartphone app, for example. This includes, for example, vital data (pulse, etc.), GPS, movement data and activities, but also audio or video data. The sensors of the wearables continuously record new data, which can then be evaluated. Due to the constant improvement of the sensors, the measurement results are becoming more accurate and offer detailed information about, for example, the state of health.
The recorded raw data can be evaluated and graphically processed with the help of apps or databases. For example, it is possible to track the pulse rate or the distance covered with the help of the GPS module. If the measurement results are combined, conclusions can be drawn about the user’s daily routine. How is the daily commute made? What time does the user leave their home to go to work? In addition to the data collected by the wearables, the user can collect further data and complement his profile.
Google Now/Assistant is an extension of Google Search and is offered by Google Inc. This is an app for Android and iOS devices that simulate a personal assistant. The user is offered information based on the information Google Inc. receives. The prerequisite for this is a Google account and consent to the data analysis. With the use of wearables, even more, areas can be used. This applies to both users with a wearable, such as a smartwatch, and the collection of vital data.
Data collection is no longer limited to empirical, technical and scientific data. The collection, evaluation and use of user data are becoming increasingly important. In addition to the technical and scientific data, data from each person can now also be recorded and linked with one another. By using social media, users reveal their information and thus contribute to the constant growth of big data. With the proliferation and use of smartphones and tablets, new opportunities have been created to collect personal data. For the first time, GPS data could be recorded and evaluated by private users. In connection with, for example, Google products or Facebook, a new spectrum of data is generated.
With the help of wearables, another component has been added with which user data can be recorded. The data recorded in this way is particularly sensitive and therefore requires high-security standards. When anonymized, the data is harmless and can be used for general evaluations. In combination with personal data, however, these represent a personal risk.
The collection and evaluation of data help companies to tailor their products to the users. In many cases, users receive the products offered free of charge and the companies are allowed to use the data provided. A data set is not meaningful on its own, but by combining and evaluating a lot of data, significant added value can be created. Not only the evaluation of personal data brings advantages for companies and users. The development of sensors in vehicles means that a large amount of data can be recorded, the evaluation of which can prevent traffic jams or rear-end collisions, for example.
The collection and analysis of data also have disadvantages. On the one hand, ever larger data centres are required to store and evaluate the data. This requires a high energy supply and thus contributes to high CO2 emissions. On the other hand, people are becoming increasingly transparent, since they have to disclose personal data which is stored for a wide variety of services. The increasing flow of information about locations, for example, can have fatal consequences if data protection is not observed. So it would be possible to check people wearing a smartwatch or other wearable on their state of health, their fitness activities, their daily routine and the like.
In principle, it is important to protect all personal data and only collect it with the consent of the person concerned. It is also important to ensure that the person concerned does not infringe on their rights.
The volume of data and its complexity are constantly increasing. Storage, processing and evaluation are becoming increasingly important for companies. By processing big data into smart data, added value can be generated from the recorded data, which brings all information into a logical context. The age of wearables has just begun and new technology is on the rise. Just as smartphones and tablets have conquered the market, wearables will also become part of our everyday lives. This gives us access to new data formats and other information that contributes to Big Data.