Our dumb web is getting smarter. It already knows who you are and who you know, and it won’t be long before it will be able to leverage those connections on your behalf wherever you go. Our mobile devices are already being outfitted with sensors of all types. There are currently two common scenarios for sensors + mobile phones:
1) Everyday objects with sensors pumping out data on things like temperature, noise and activity; the mobile phone reads and analyzes this data.
2) The phone is used as a sensor itself. For example the iPhone has a built-in accelerometer, which is basically a motion detector. This is used for game control and also for re-sizing your iPhone display from portrait to landscape. The iPhone also has a microphone (which can be used as a noise sensor), a proximity sensor, and an ambient light sensor.
We’re starting to see GPS-based Geosocial networking services like Whrrl, Loopt, and Hotlist gain some ground, but I’m really interested to see what will happen when mobile devices are embedded with proximity sensors (i.e. when the mobile device gets close to another short range sensor, data is shared). It may never happen, but I think it’s a great idea because, while GPS based social networking works for people who know each other, it doesn’t work for sharing contextual relationship data between a person and an object or an organization. You could imagine many of different/unique use cases based on foot traffic for business and being social…
New Kinds Of Retail and Restaurant Loyalty Programs
What if a store or restaurant had it’s own short range sensor that knew when you walked in the door and alerted the sales staff about your sales history and personal shopping preferences? What if you were fed instant information on in-store sales based on your favorite items or wish lists? How would any of this change your relationship with your favorite venues?
Enabling The Smart Home
What if your home automatically knew your preferences for lighting, music, air temperature etc and automatically adjusted the environment and your devices as you walked from room to room?
Navigating People & Businesses
What if you were at a conference and you’re in a crowd of people. Would it be useful if your device could tell you when you last saw a person you’re about to run into, or that six steps behind you is someone you went to high school with? What if it could tell you that the product that’s being sold at the store you’re passing is on sale at another store in the same area? The web knows these things, we just don’t have a useful way to get that information automatically fed to us when we’re on the go.
Why Mobile Devices?
Using the phone as a sensor (instead of an embedded RFID chip in our skin, for example) seems like a logical next step for these types of applications because it makes participation optional and manual. It might seem whacky now, but you’d probably be surprised how many people would be on board if the the privacy-to-utility ratio was right.
What are your thoughts on this? Too far out there, or is it where we’re headed?
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