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The unguarded cemetery of data

I have purchased a fitness wristband.

I was a curious to try the functionalities and see if it could really affect my lifestyle. I fantasized about breakthrough insights into my own body, how much I move, how I sleep, and how much more control I could have on my level of energy and overall health.

I wore it religiously for the first 3 weeks. At the beginning I had fun uncovering functionalities, checking what it could or couldn’t track, volunteering information through data inputing.

Then it all came to a ‘so what’. I began to find my wristband limited, flawed, boring. Even ugly. It didn’t live up to my (massive) expectations. So I abandoned it. First I went away for a weekend and left it at home. Then I left it somewhere in my house, the battery running out, forgotten.

But it got me thinking. How many of these ‘smart’ technologies will we try and discard in the next 3 years? How much half inputed data will just lay there, unused and unprotected.

And if the maker of my wristband was to go out of business, what would happen to my personal data they are storing? I doubt anyone will care to do any maintenance.

As we are just beginning to grasp the meaning of ‘carbon footprint’ we’ll soon need to face the additional issue of the trail of data that we leave behind, forgetting about it, thinking we can trash it and it will disappear. Technically it won’t.

We just need to hope that it won’t be interesting or valuable to anyone.


(Image: Darren Almond,Tide, 2008, comprising of 567 digital wall clocks)

  • Brian M

    Excellent points Francesca. We’re just beginning to understand the psychological profile of wearables and seeing just how many lack any longterm stickiness. It would be a shame to see all of that copper, silver, silica, rubber, steel, etc. hucked into a landfill because designers couldn’t offer the right solution.

    Data security is another important topic related especially to ‘quantified self’-type wearables. Where and how the data is stored is incredibly important to the privacy and security of the user. This is way more than just who your friends are and what you share with them. This is the intimate details of what you do, where you go, and even what you eat. We need better protections in place for users’ data, both while the company collecting the data is operating and thereafter.

    Thank you for this great article on some very real challenges facing wearables.