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Wearables: Adoption Slow, Security Concerns High

Wearables certainly had their day in 2015, with major brands and fashion leaders tapping technology to make body adornments that track heart rate, cool when sweat escalates and tell you how you slept last night.

One thing that has so far been little considered, however, is the security of these devices—and consumers are concerned about it.

Centrify, an identity management firm, conducted a survey to assess the growing concern wearables pose for IT security and found that 69 percent of wearable device owners skip entering login credentials. They don’t put in PINs, use passwords, fingerprint scanners or voice recognition to access their devices.

And that’s because 42 percent say identity theft is their top security concern when it comes to their devices, followed by 34 percent who cite lack of IT management and device control, and 22 percent who are just generally concerned about the increase in security breaches involving sensitive information.

“As wearables become more common in the enterprise, IT departments must take serious steps to protect them as carefully as they do laptops and smartphones,” Centrify’s chief product officer Bill Mann, said. “Wearables are deceptively private. Owners may feel that due to their ongoing proximity to the body, they’re less likely to fall into the wrong hands. However, hackers don’t need to take physical possession of a device in order to exploit a hole in security.”

But before the industry gets worked up about securing wearable devices, they may want to consider the fact that few consumers are even wearing wearables.

The reason? According to an article in Bloomberg View, many are still too big, quite a few aren’t even available to consumers, and they’ll need to start doing more than tracking workouts and alerting wearers of notifications via wristwatch.

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Wearable offerings have certainly increased in the last couple years—Ralph Lauren launched its fitness-tracking PoloTech shirt, Google and Levi’s started Project Jacquard, which makes it possible for touch and gesture interactivity to be woven into a textile, and in January Under Armour introduced its Connected Products line of fitness gear that works with its UA Record health app. However, the world still remains in the nascent stages of wearable development.

First generation fitness trackers like Fitbit and Apple’s smart watch led the charge, but clothing and accessories aren’t rapidly on their way to technologization for mass consumption. Wearables aren’t quite yet seamlessly integrating into things that consumers will wear anyway, and many aren’t yet moving from concept to commercial products in a scalable way.

Smartwatches may have helped fuel wearable development but component quality has still been a problem. As Amanda Parkes, chief of technology and research at Manufacture New York explained to Bloomberg, “If you’re not deep inside the world [of wearable development], you don’t understand why it’s necessary.”

This year, though, may really be the year for wearables. In an article for CNBC in December, Rick Yang, a partner at New Enterprise Associates said 2016 would be the year wearables “disappear.” And Yang didn’t mean the category would lose the world’s interest, but rather wearables will soon meld so seamlessly into whatever the vessel may be, that we won’t even notice them—they’ll start finding themselves in things that look good enough that consumers will want them whether they do tricks or not, and that’s likely what it will take to quicken consumer adoption.