Wearable Technology: Retailer’s Dream or Security Risk?

Remember how Star Trek characters like the VISOR (Geordi La Forge) and Cyborg machine-turned-human Seven of Nine wore super-cool, futuristic visual aids to boldly go where no man has gone before? Considering the prediction of the Wearable Technology Report that the wearable electronics business will grow from $20 billion in 2015 to almost $70 billion by 2025, it appears that the future is now.

What is “Wearable Technology?”

The term “wearable technology” applies to technological devices embedded in apparel, glasses, jewelry, headgear, belts, fitness bands, wristwear and more. The recent hype surrounding the launch of the Apple Watch has brought wearable technology into the limelight.

So what are we talking about, a funky collection of hi-tech gadgets or a major technological breakthrough? The world’s largest electronics, software, services and medical companies are among the many manufacturers rushing to produce the next “mobile phone.”

According to statistics, people look at their mobile phones every six minutes; so the transition from a portable technology that we keep close by to a wearable device is only a logical progression.

Wearables – A Retail Paradise

Wearables aren’t just a fashion statement or an amusing toy – in fact, they offer major advantages to retailers across the board. Consumers regard retail and wearables as a particularly beneficial synergy. In a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) survey, participants stated that an enhanced retail experience was one of the most important deliverables that wearable technology stands to offer. 72% noted that they would like wearable technology to improve customer service; 50% were interested in apps for wearables as a reward for frequent use; 76% of parents expressed their hope that wearables would make the shopping experience more pleasant and efficient.

Wearables also have the potential to play a central role in omni-channel retail experiences, by enabling consumers to gain real-time data from social media, review sites and other information sources while shopping. For merchants, wearable technology serves as an additional key to amass data about consumer spending and shopping habits. Customer service can be improved by enabling store personnel equipped with real-time wearable devices to be more responsive. Due to the range of payment capabilities that wearables are able to provide, they offer an additional way to streamline payments for a more seamless shopping experience.

Privacy and Security Risks

Eighty-six percent of the participants in the PwC survey expressed a fear that wearables would make users vulnerable to security breaches.

The use of wearable technology undoubtedly has security implications that must be considered, whether it is used by individuals or businesses. Because wearable endpoints may be able to connect to sensitive company information in databases, these systems must be treated like mobile devices from a security aspect.

Data accessed by wearable devices must be protected against unauthorized third parties. SSL certificates can be used for encryption to safeguard materials in transit from being stolen by a third party. Access to sensitive data should be limited to a select group of people or only to parties with authorized devices. It is also vital to gauge the security of back-end systems to which data is being uploaded.

Users can do their part to secure data, as well. They must protect their individual accounts with login authentication and strong passwords. Regardless of how employees are connecting with business or personal profiles – from their smartphones, laptops or smartwatches – they can verify their identity and prevent unauthorized access.

The Closer the Better

Today’s consumers expect a seamless and rapid shopping experience leading to instant gratification. To achieve this, they prefer to use the device closest at hand — the closer the better, regardless of the security risks. Wearables are about as close as you can get, but will the trend last? Only time will tell.

Oren Levy is CSO and co-founder of Zooz.

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