THE BLOG

Threats and Delights of the Apple Watch

03/12/2015 04:38 pm ET | Updated May 12, 2015

Six months after revealing the Apple Watch to the world, Tim Cook is here again. The official launch of Apple's new gadget, held at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, could not have been more exciting for its many fans worldwide.

The Watch will be available in three versions: the Sport edition starts at $349 or $399 depending on size (38mm or 42mm); the regular Watch will start at $549, doubling up for the top configuration (users can choose from many design options); the Watch Edition that comes in 18K gold, up to $17,000 - something that very few of us can afford.

Filled with dynamism and sarcasm, Tim Cooks' presentation didn't miss to properly introduce Apple Watch key features: a flexible retina display with Force Touch, that uses tiny electrodes around it to distinguish between a light tap and a deep press, real-time notifications for incoming mail, messages, and calls, Siri, Wi-Fi, GPS, Heart Rate Sensor, Accelerometer, but especially the prompt availability of apps such as Twitter, Apple Pay, Uber, Instagram, Facebook, Maps, and many more.

This is a truly wearable gadget that relies on a connected iPhone to perform many of its functions. Therefore, nobody doubts that it will open up a new market for apps for promising industrial sectors such as fitness: Nerio Alessandri, CEO of Technogym, top producer of fitness and wellness equipment and founder of the so-called Wellness Valley, could barely contain his enthusiasm during Tim Cooks' presentation.

In the automotive industry, Apple Watch could become an ideal substitute for today's ignition keys and other tasks as well: a field where both BMW and Tesla are sharing a pole position. Equally important will be the new services related to the media sector. Apps like Anthony De Rosa's Circa, for example, could take advantage of Apple Watch's real-time notifications to keep its users constantly up-to-date. Similar opportunities are at hand for entertainment and utility companies, such as the well-know music app Shazam. In fact, the watch works with BMW cars, you can challenge friends to runs on the Nike app, and you can control things in your home using the Honeywell app.

But of course there's no limit to new, smarter apps that will surely pop up soon in many other fields. A trend where a couple of significant clues are already emerging: these apps will mostly focus on integrating existing products on this wearable device, and independent developers will face both a strong attraction and a challenging competition. Indeed, given the 10-second time limit for any Watch-based interaction, how could they actually gain revenues? This specific constraint seems to limit their chances for alternative revenue streams -- at least until new ideas will start rolling.

Beside such shining features and opportunities, however, Apple Watch is also stirring up new privacy and security issues. While the company itself promises not to "ever monitor or collect your data," obviously its users will share an unprecedented amount of personal data: notes, ideas, events, purchase habits, health records -- just to mention a few. The actual management of those data raises legitimate concerns, particularly about their encryption during transmission and the security of their storage options, along with obvious problems if the gadget is lost or stolen.

Also, "trust" remains a crucial issue here: future Watch apps will surely collect lots of data about its users (location, contacts, messages, etc.), but how can we trust their fair use policies? And what about the role of intelligence agencies (in the US and elsewhere)? These days they seem very interested in accessing at any cost tech companies' sensitive and internal info, in order to surreptitiously spy on the final users -- such as the recently discovered program carried by the CIA to break the security of Apple's iPhones and iPads.

In short, the arrival of such sophisticated devices raises a wide variety of problems, something that should interest the whole society but that few people seem willing to embrace. A good reason for this is due to the fact that being ultra-connected and sharing anything seems a "must," especially for younger people.

With the arrival of new gadgets and services -- i.e., Apple Pay, the Watch and more to come -- many companies are eager to collect our personal data and turn them into real opportunities to make a good profit, while also trying to improve our lives. That is what Tim Cook said, for example, about the Watch's Research Kit that includes disease-specific apps enabling patients to track their symptoms and choose to share those data with its research partners -- such as the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the Oxford University and Stanford Medicine.

On the other hand, it should be noted that other institutions, such as the European Commission, and privacy activists around the world are concerned about this widespread data-collection and are trying to find positive solutions to some worrying (and often automatic) behaviors of these new technologies for the masses.

It's obvious that in our hyper-connected world, where travel has become easier and cheaper, and access to information is an immediate and rewarding process, the same idea of privacy is quite different from a not-so-distant time when our world was divided into clear blocks and different cultures. But the future cannot wait, at least that's what Apple seems to suggest to each and all of us -- so better be prepared to face its broader consequences.

While some are concerned about privacy issues, others hope that the Watch will be a flop and still others prefer similar gadget by competitors like Samsung. But probably only the actual sales will provide clues about who is right: we have to wait until April 24, when the Apple Watch will be available in nine countries.