Persistent Ambient Sensing & Analysis
Sounds boring and geeky? But frankly, it’s absolutely fascinating and should scare the living hell out of you!
Your smart phone contains many sensors that can (and do) capture data at any time. But what if these sensors captured data all of the time: temperature, compass, GPS, gyroscope, WiFi antenna, Bluetooth antenna, cell antenna, accelerometer, etc. What if an app sent this data to its cloud servers to be analyzed?
What if an app continuously tracked where you are, how fast you are moving, whether you’re inside or outside, how high up you are, if you’re in your car (and which one), and on and on and on…
What if the app collected this data in real time and, combined with your historical data analysis, could predict which way you are going to go home and warn you just before you leave work (because it knows you’re about to leave work from your data history, the time, and your current location) that there’s an accident on your route home and suggests a different one? What if the app could tell you were just in a car accident and call 911 for you? What if this app could tell you that the place you’re about to stop for gas (it knows which car you’re in, when you last bought gas for that car, where you tend to buy it, and based on your collected driving data knows you’re almost empty–right at the point where you typically buy gas …) is 4 cents more per gallon than a gas station two blocks away? What if… Well, you get the idea.
This isn’t science fiction. The app, PlaceMe, exists now, and you can download and use it right now from the iTunes store using this link. (It’s also available on Android, which provides the company with more information than an iPhone.)
It’s tempting, isn’t it.
Since many of us carry our cell phones with us everywhere we go, the company, Alohar Mobile, will get to know a massive amount of information about you. They are and will continue to be very busy building algorithms to interpret your data.
They could get to know the people we hang out with, when, and where (if they also use the app you don’t even have to “friend” them). They will know if you go to church, when, how often, where. Imagine department stores installing bluetooth sensors throughout their stores and purchasing from Alohar Mobile how long you spent in what departments in their store. (Alohar has already thought of this, I’m sure. This information would be invaluable to marketing departments.) When the stores triangulate that data with your purchase history (they just need to have a bluetooth sensor at each of the registers and triangulate their own time stamp data with Alohar’s data), the store can begin to predict what you will buy and when. Did it matter if the item was on sale or not, or how much of sale is your purchase tipping point? When they need to move merchandise, they know what you’re willing to pay for it and probably when. They send you that private sale invitation!
Facebook is trying to harvest location information from their mobile app. It fires up your GPS every time you launch the application. (I shut of location services for my Facebook app.) But PlaceMe takes this to a whole new level. If you opt in by downloading and launching their app, PlaceMe collects everything all the time!
In the video at the bottom of this post, Robert Scoble interviews Sam Liang, the founder of Alohar Mobile. Sam seems like a nice enough guy. He talks about privacy and encryption. The website says your location is never “broadcast.” Sam says the app launched last week and already has 2,000 users. I can see Facebook wanting this startup, and wanting it badly, even more than they wanted Instagram. Do you think I trust Mark Zuckerberg for even one single heartbeat?
Robert says this new type of persistent ambient sensing and analysis service is all freaky but inevitable. I really, deeply want to disagree, but I think Robert is right.
Young people today seem to have no expectation for privacy, don’t seem to understand its value. Even people closer to my generation like Robert Scoble and Tim O’Reilly, who certainly understand the implications of this technology, are leaping into it without hesitation, calling it “the future.” I ask yet again on my blog, are we creating a future in which we will actually want to live?!
When the transglobal corporate elite begin correlating your great grandchildren’s health, DNA, purchasing, persistent ambient sensing, internet search activity, cloud-based app and document use, television (If your present TV isn’t connected to the internet, your next one will be.) and media consumption, data with your children’s data, and your data… They will maximize profits, control information flow, manage election outcomes, and keep everyone just happy enough to keep that capitol flowing at highest levels possible. It sounds a bit like a conspiracy theory, but it’s not. It’s the way of corporate America. It’s the new way of capitalism, our greedy, unfettered economic structures that care almost exclusively about profit and not about people–unless adversely impacting people will adversely impact profit.
In 2006 I gave a presentation to a group of about 100 university graduate students on pattern recognition. I kept coming back to a central question: “How much data it would take about each of us to replace our free will?” Only a couple of them grasp what I was suggesting. That future seemed to be much further off then. But in only 5 years…
As MetaFilter user blue_beetle accurately observed, “If you’re not paying for something, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.” PlaceMe is free. Facebook is free. Google is free. In no time you won’t be.
- Move Over Siri, Alohar Wants To Learn Everything About You (forbes.com)
- Tracking everything, Placeme is the smartphone assistant of the future (gigaom.com)
- Apple Patent Watch: iPhone Peripherals, Magnetic Connectors, And Smartphone Flashes (fastcompany.com)
- SXSW Preview: The Year of ‘Ambient Social’ Apps? (pcworld.com)
- Robert Scoble Talks Social Strategy, Open Graph, Pinterest and More – Marketo Best Practices Blog (fguely.wordpress.com)