Are we ready to live in an uberveillance society?

When Google Glass hits stores later this year, not only will it transform sunglasses from fashion accessory to wearable technology, it will cause a social revolution, says IEEE Technology & Society Magazine editor in chief, Associate Professor Katina Michael.

The Sci-Fi-looking, internet-connected eyewear can do everything a mobile phone can do (and more) with a simple voice command.

Beyond the obvious functions – snapping photos, recording video, send text messages and searching the internet – some of the most exciting uses include biofeedback (monitor your heart rate on your morning run), instruction (stream step-by-step video tutorials) and navigation (map out a route to the other side of the city or out of IKEA).

But Associate Professor Michael warns we are fast approaching an “Uberveillance” society. The next wave of innovations, she predicts, might even be implantable cameras – that are always on.

“Wearable devices like Google Glass allow users to record events and share them with members of their social network in near-real time. Users can also take photos, record audio and video and even store an image for automatic facial detection of their contact list. The possible apps are endless.”

Alexander Hayes, who is currently completing a PhD under Michael’s supervision, says his preliminary research has shown that wearable devices, like Google Glass, will replace current handheld technologies, such as the smartphone, in as little as five years time.

“Wearable technologies will increasingly become part of many activities across society, in essence becoming the norm rather than the exception.”

“We are likely to have one device connected to a multitude of service providers, for example, virtual medical practitioners,” says Alexander, who has just returned from Finland’s Aalto University, where he contributed to a high profile European emerging technologies research project.

Alexander’s research focuses on the impacts of wearable technologies on education, training and occupations.

He says that while these devices have many educational benefits, like enhancing mobile and distance education and enabling instruction for dangerous tasks in the workplace, he is worried that lawmakers are failing to keep up with the rapid uptake of these devices, which is already exploding in the extreme sports, military and medical sectors.

“The user needs to know boundaries as to when and where it's appropriate, or indeed permissible, for these technologies to be used and increasingly, as they become omnipresent and normalised, workplace policies need to be carefully instrumented, as do laws that govern the use of these technologies where they may have an adverse impact on others.”

Through his research, Alexander aims to provide organisations with recommendations on how to form responsible policies around the use of wearable technologies in the workplace and in educational environments.


  • Google Glass will be released as a consumer product later this year.

  • Emerging technologies expert and UOW PhD student, Alexander Hayes.