As Wearable Tech Sales Grow, So Do Privacy Concerns - eMarketer

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As Wearable Tech Sales Grow, So Do Privacy Concerns

Wearable smart device units to total 64.0 million in next four years

December 9, 2013

Wearable smart device sales worldwide will hit 64.0 million units by 2017, according to research from Berg Insight.

And wearable smart devices are already showing some success. Berg Insight reported that wearable smart device shipments—which the study defined as smart glasses, smartwatches and wearable fitness trackers—jumped nearly 168%, from 3.1 million to 8.3 million, between 2011 and 2012.

Wearable Smart Device Sales Worldwide, 2011, 2012 & 2017 (millions of units)

But not so fast. While wearable smart devices are supposed to make consumers’ lives easier, the growing popularity of such devices has caused some to voice rising privacy concerns about these smart technologies.

September 2013 polling by Survey Sampling International (SSI) found that, on average, around one-third of internet users in select countries were worried that wearable devices would invade people’s privacy. Respondents from Australia were the most concerned, with nearly half citing worries. France and the UK tied for second, and the US claimed the No. 3 spot. These worries aren’t limited to one region.

Internet Users in Select Countries Who Are Concerned that Wearable Devices Will Invade People's Privacy, Sep 2013 (% of respondents)

While one-third of internet users saying they were worried may seem small, these concerns could still limit consumer buying of such devices. The same SSI study found that just 32% of respondents, on average, would purchase a wearable device when available—and privacy concerns may have fueled the lack of interest. Again, the top responses came from countries throughout the world.

For now, privacy concerns may take some time to resolve. Berg Insight noted that, like for most new technology, where wearable smart device privacy lines should be drawn is uncertain. And it is up to users and providers to use the capabilities these devices enable appropriately.


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