Are we living in the technology “stone age”?

We live in “the stone age”, according to a bold claim made in a report out this week.

Ruth Mortimer

In case you think I’m 8,000 years behind the times, I should clarify that this new stone age is not an age of carved rock tools but of emerging connected electronic devices.

We are at the beginning of an era where sales of smart wearable devices will grow from 9.7 million last year to 135 million in 2018, according to research from CCS Insight.

Just as the prehistoric era was a time of immense technological change and tool development, wearable tech is also going through a process of moving from crude to sophisticated.

Smart devices aren’t just about wearable tech either. The connected home, with smart thermostats, appliances and lighting, is also becoming a reality. 

Our report here shows how consumers buy smart devices for the home. It’s not good news for brands in this sector since consumers remain unconvinced that the extra value provided by smart devices is worth their money. Cost and worries about complexity seem to be the key reasons why British consumers are not buying the devices.

Only 18 per cent feel that giving away the data these devices require is too intrusive. What stands in the way of their widespread adoption is proof of their genuine utility. This is where the comparisons with the stone age period fall down. As an ex-archaeologist, I know that the earliest tools were defined by their utility; they changed the way people lived entirely. Smart devices and wearables have yet to show that they are more than lifestyle enhancements.

This may change, however, with the announcement of major new developments in the healthcare smart device sector this week. Intel has teamed up with the Michael J Fox Foundation to use big data analytics and wearable tech to transform the lives of Parkinson’s suffers by analysing the impact of treatment in real time.

In Japan, fetal monitors are being integrated into clothing to monitor pregnancies. Biosensors – tiny electronic patches stuck to the skin that can monitor everything from heartbeat to intestinal sounds – are already in development to send critical patient data to doctors.

Brands that enhance lifestyles are great. But brands that change lives will always be stronger. That was true in the real stone age and it’s just as valid today.

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