Remember the days when you could slip through a yellow light without the threat of a camera catching you in the act?
Well I do – and I want them back.
But that’s never going to happen. Those tickets from Baltimore City are going to keep on rolling in as long as I keep rolling through traffic lights with a sense of urgency.
Cameras are practically everywhere today and this fact is quite distressing to me.
Now, I have no quarrels with paying a fine for catching the front end of a red light – I shouldn’t be driving like that in the first place.
However, with the constant threat of being recorded, I can’t help but feel like my access to privacy is steadily shrinking. The whole “You shouldn’t be worried if you have nothing to hide!” mantra just doesn’t cut it for me.
You can’t buy a gallon of milk, pump your gas, or extract funds these days without your movements being documented. And the fact that the aforementioned locations are “public” is hardly comforting.
Now, I definitely don’t live my life with a sense of paranoia – I am quite certain that there are more appealing targets out there to choose from – but I am also cognizant of the possibility that, with enough motivation to do so, someone could easily track my every move.
And with the recent hype surrounding NSA whistle blower Edward Snowden, this sort of intrusion doesn’t seem too far fetched at all.
It’s pretty scary when you take the time to think about it, but we can at least still confide in the fact that armies of cameras have yet to find their way into public bathrooms, right?
Well, as much as I hate to the be the bearer of bad news, even the sacred privacy of the bathroom may now be at risk. And that’s not all – your workplace, your gym, and even your home are soon to be domains of uncertain public exposure.
The Human Camera
If you haven’t already heard about Google Inc.’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) Google Glass, you may just have been living under a rock for the past year. But in case you’re not already familiar, Google Glass is a wearable computer with a head mounted display.
Basically, Google Glass is what you would get if a smart-phone and a pair of glasses had a baby. It’s enough to get any tech geek excited, but Glass also has some potentially alarming implications.
I won’t go into all the tech specifications here because they aren’t totally relevant to this article. What does matter is that Google Glass is already creating a myriad of piracy concerns due to its ability to record whatever users are looking at. Essentially, Google Glass turns you into a human camera.
Of course, some will argue that we have cameras everywhere already and that this doesn’t change much at all. They are in our homes, our offices and even our public bathrooms. After all, smart phones can record video with the tap of a screen.
Yet, there is a fundamental difference in how we use phones and how we will use wearables that will further blur the lines between publicity and privacy.
When not in use, our phones sit in our pockets and our bags. When in use, our phones sit in our hands. The obvious difference between these two states makes it easily discernible for us to know whether or not we are being recorded.
As I write this I can glance over at my colleagues and know for certain that they are not recording me based on the simple fact that there isn’t a phone or camera pointed at my face. Yet, if any one of them had Google-Glass strapped to their foreheads, I couldn’t be so certain.
The fact is, there are still no definitive answers regarding how Google-Glass will impact our daily lives and levels of privacy. Not until we see droves of human cameras will we be be able to address the issue directly.
And despite all these worries, one thing is for certain –wearables are not going away.
Private establishments can ban the use of Glass in bathrooms and casinos can prevent patrons from wearing the device to prevent cheating. Movies theaters, hospitals, and sporting arenas also have the right to say no to Google Glass.
However, you cannot ban the sale of a device simply because it results in a few privacy concerns. Most importantly, you cannot stop the sheer market demand there will be for wearables.
Google Glass may be the most publicized right now but it is definitely not the only wearable entering the market. And until Google Glass becomes more affordable and socially acceptable, don’t expect consumers to be jumping on the chance to start playing cyborg just yet.
Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) currently has 100 product designers working on a watch that would run the same software as the iPhone and iPad. This device is set to compete with fitness trackers by Nike (NYSE: NKE), Fitbit inc., and Basis Science inc.. However, the device will be able to do more than just track fitness and may initially be more physically appealing to consumers than Google Glass.
Recent startup Thalmic Labs is even developing an armband that allows users to interact with computers through the use of Bluetooth. The device can recognize about 20 physical gestures through muscle activity and has already gathered over 30,000 pre-orders, bringing in over $4 million for for product development.
Thalmic currently competes with Leap Motion which also offers similar motion based technology control. Leap is already working with Google, so keep an eye out for possible acquisitions or public offerings involving these two startups.
But the best investment opportunities lie a bit deeper. The inner workings (chips and semiconductors) are what should garner your full attention.
As wearables continue to disrupt the market, expect to see a decline in the sale of conventional computers devices. Just as tablets are slowly killing the PC (PC shipments are expected to decline by 8% in 2013), wearables will likely have a similar effect on both PCs and eventually tablets as well.
Semi-conductor and chip manufacturers such as Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD) that derive the majority of their revenue (85%) from the PC market will undoubtedly see trouble as this trend continues.
On the opposing end, chip manufacturers entering the tablet and wearable markets are set for substantial growth.
Turning progress to profits,