Last year, a great deal of industry powerhouses gathered together at a conference to discuss the future of MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) that will be integrated into all aspects of our lives, be used to gather formerly impossible-to-gather data, and generally open doors to a future that we can only imagine (and possibly aren’t equipped to imagine yet). When I read about these advancements and dreams, I couldn’t help think about the incessant march of progress towards the world of tomorrow.
I recently read an interview with the founder of Foursquare, who was talking about recent advances in smartphone technology and how his business (and other businesses) could leverage not-yet available sensing technology to create device that acts as more of a companion than a communication device, something that could keep a person aware of his or her surroundings through better use of the device’s built-in sensors.
“If you think of the phone as a bunch of sensors stuck in this device connected to the network, how can I walk around the city and have the phone come alive and remind me, ‘Oh this is a place you should go to lunch” or “this is the place you read an article about 6 months ago.'”
The thing is, this really isn’t anything new. Intel CEO Paul Otellini has been talking about this type of integration for years, and we see the idea crop up again here through Intel CTO Justin Rattner’s use of the phrase “context-aware computing.”
The thing is, people get sorta jittery when things like this start popping up in the news. No one really knows what the future will look like, but they do know that they don’t want some Orwellian “Big Brother” watching every move they make and cataloguing all of their habits. The problem with that sort of paranoia, however, is that it’s already happening, and we’re actually glad about. I’m no conspiracy theorist, and I don’t subscribe to the whole “Internet privacy” thing. I know it’s an illusion. My point is that I would really like a device that’s totally integrated into my life, I would like my phone to pipe up and say, “Hey Paul, I know you like gardens, and there’s a really neat garden around the corner from here.” Does that violate my privacy? No, not really, because I told my phone to let me know about things like that. Does that open the door for someone (or something) to track my habits, movement, and preferences?
Not any more than they do right now. The point here, without sounding too kooky, is that in order for devices to reach the next level of usefulness, a deeper level of integration into our lives, we will need to realize that all the data we’ve been providing corporations, marketing agencies, and *gasp* the government can actually be used to make our lives a little more pleasant. That sounds kinda nice to me.
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