Why get a smartwatch? Are we so bored with our phones that we need just another device attached to our hand or does it really make life a little easier? Maybe it helps us to monitor our health, or perhaps we wear it as a status symbol. I strapped a TicWatch Pro to my wrist for several weeks to see what the fuss was about.
It took a couple of days to get used to it but the smartwatch did become something of an existential need to reach 10,000 steps daily at any cost. I even started running: this is something I haven’t done in a decade, but now I am even considering training for a marathon. The smartwatch brings a running app, and hence a personal trainer, to your side and wired to your body’s vital signs at all times.
I am also checking my phone less, to the point that I forget it’s even there. I get notifications on my watch screen that get ignored if they are not important. It’s easy to set reminders and even easier to view my agenda, and some of the Ticwatch features are more effective than on my smartphone including tracking heart rate, sleep, activity and overall fitness level. It can call my phone when I forget where I kept it – a big bonus feature for me. I can play music, use maps while biking and pay at the store and on the metro using contactless payment.
One month of wearing this chunky watch on my wrist, and I may have enrolled in the mildly pretentious “quantified self” club of people who measure themselves – their bodies, their behaviour – in pursuit of things like weight loss, better sleep, great fitness. They (we) call it “self-knowledge through self-tracking”.
When talking about the future of smartwatches, health benefits largely come to mind. Health is the key current benefit after all. Tracking your heart rate during exercise allows you to maintain and increase your fitness level, and when connected to Artificial Intelligence may be able to accurately detect specific types of abnormal heart rhythms.
Cool, isn’t it? But naturally, a dark side also exists. While smartwatches may be the next big thing, there is always a danger of obsessing, losing autonomy, and becoming a product of your own surveillance.
No doubt, wearable technologies can have a positive impact on the way we lead our lives by giving us insight into ourselves and enabling us to interact in new ways. However, it is also clear that when we invite technology onto or into our bodies, we have to be willing to share everyday decision making. As wearables crunch our every move, murmer and flutter, we will increasingly be told what to do, how best to behave and communicate with others. Wearables like Ticwatch Pro can be our companions, but we need to treat them responsibly, questioning the sustainability of our current relationship with the smart devices we strap to our wrists and invite to measure our biometrics.
When wearable tech is deployed by companies to monitor their own staff, things can become more sinister. Many companies routinely monitor the location of their drivers or take screen grabs capturing in real-time how they work. “Surveillance capitalism”, as described by Shoshana Zuboff, leads to Amazon warehouse employees being tracked with wristbands and warned if they are not meeting productivity expectations.
The case for buying a smartwatch as a cool new gadget to monitor health and implement small life hacks is strong. The future looks to be full of connectivity and opportunity when it comes to wearables, but like any technology, it is prone to misuse courtesy of our human flaws and the mismatched agendas of those with access to our biometric data. These are the goals and behaviours we have to continually question.
It’s also unlikely that you have heard of TicWatch but its absolutely brilliant. Check them out over here.