Over the years we've seen all the benefits wearables can provide us. They can help make us healthier, they take us to whole new worlds (in VR), and they can even save our lives. Like with any technology, it's the optimistic, world-changing potential that gets us all hot and bothered.
What we never account for is that us humans can sometimes be a lousy bunch. If there's a way to exploit something, we'll find a way to do it. So if we can use wearables to get ahead, at the detriment of others, some of us would do it. Wearables have a human problem.
What did I do!?
No need to be defensive, you did nothing. The Boston Red Sox, on the other hand, used an Apple Watch in their scheme to steal pitching signals from their arch rival, the New York Yankees. Trainers would just look at their watch, get pitching information, and relay it to the players.
Apple certainly didn't sell that as a use case
Definitely not, but it's a growing trend. As The Guardian reported, since 2012 there's been a 42% rise in cheating with a gadget, with a good deal of that thanks to the proliferation of smartwatches.
Just a couple months ago, West Virginia University students were busted cheating on a chemistry exam using Apple Watches. They quickly took pictures of the test, sent it off to a friend and then looked at the answers on their watches.
They're going to ban smartwatches during tests, aren't they?
They already have. The College Board, which runs the SAT college entrance tests, does not allow wearable tech into the testing room. Same goes for the Law School Admission Council, which runs the LSAT. GMAT test takers have to put all their technology into lockers before their tests.
And oh, if you try to take wearables into a GRE test room you're immediately removed, your fees are forfeited and your test scores are canceled.
Jeez, back in my day we wrote on our hands
Right, well, it's not just the kids. An Italian chess player was caught cheating using a wearable camera that live streamed the match to an accomplice, who then sent him ideal moves via a morse code box under his armpit. Points for creativity, I suppose.
These are big time events though, so that creativity makes sense
Sure, but that's also filtering down. There are companies who give their employees fitness trackers, rewarding them with discounts, freebies and more when they display good athletic behavior. That means cheating your fitness tracker, like a man who did not want to be named told CBS Pittsburgh. He would toss his Fitbit into a sock, then put it in the dryer and - boom - 11,000 steps.
People are too much for me
What about corporations? As colleague Conor noted, the big reason the NBA doesn't allow its athletes to use wearables on the field is because it's afraid that data will give them an advantage when it comes time to negotiate new contracts. So while humans can use wearable tech to give themselves an advantage over other people through illicit means, they can also ban its use to preserve its advantage.
Hold me, I'm scared.
There's no need to be scared! Humans will be humans, unfortunately. It's up to us, and the companies that make these products, to start recognizing that people will exploit features in ways they weren't intended. We've - mostly - done a good job realizing things like mobile payments and GPS locations could be used for the worst possible means. We should, at the very least, be aware the same is possible in other ways.