Like many people in this modern world, I struggle with the tension between the amenities offered in the latest technology and the loss of privacy that comes with it. Nothing in this business what in the hell made it more evident than in the burgeoning field of called contextual computing.
When I took my phone one day this week said without me to do a single gesture that my estimated travel time to work was 51 minutes that were left in lunch with a friend. Photo of Facebook friend appeared at the event.
The phone also showed my other commitments and a selection of the day as news and weather and gave me the flight status of an upcoming trip. Unfortunately, I brought the coffee. My phone is trying to anticipate my needs based on what you know about me, the context of my life. And, apparently, seems to be aware of almost everything.
Your phone is constantly picking what application designers call signals. These can be your daily travel habits; your phone can get your internal GPS, often to the nearest few meters. Your phone can also collect information from their meetings, their future travels, friends and family, your favorite team, the kind of news that usually reads and even things like your heart rate.
Things really get interesting when applications that collect these signals begin to predict. When that happens, your phone may begin to anticipate their needs, interests and habits and give information, applications and even coupons and relevant listings.
Such devices based on the context and applications already everywhere. It is scheduled according to your schedule and can even detect if someone is in the room. A speaker that is about to appear, called the Aether Cone, analyze their listening habits to play music recorded for each time of the day or week. But right now it’s in your phone where the most interesting contextual computing is given.
Now Google is best known to predict what you want to do application. The application generates my traffic report in the morning; you see a notification about the time you usually go out for work or in heavy traffic (which happens most days). It also shows, sports teams, travel information, latest technology news and searches, as well as places or events in the neighborhood. The new Windows Phone incorporated into a personal digital assistant named Cortana, does similar tricks.
In theory, this may launch more devices that we know about, helping you live better. In practice, the context is there, but the predictions are not entirely accurate. And what is lost privacy may be too much for some people.
If given access to an application to your email so you have your travel itinerary, for example, can alert you when there are problems with a flight, show alternative flights and allow book another flight with one or two touches, especially if you save the information from the credit card application. This situation gave fruits Scoble recently said- “that night was a winner in life”.
A generation of applications, mostly newly appeared is trying to add new amenities recording their signals.
EverythingMe, only available for Android, iOS does something that Apple does not allow: seizes the home screen and reorder and re-categorize their applications. This type of application is called pitching. A similar application is Aviate, currently available by invitation only.
Of the two, EverythingMe is more powerful and did not require virtually any configuration to start learning my behavior. Categorize obvious applications in folders, such as Social, Games, News, Weather, and Music. These folders also generate related content instantly taken from popular sites, as any folder I already think you would an obvious name, such as children.
What EverythingMe does well is offer a rotating collection of four applications home screen, which change according to the time of day, my location and how often you use certain applications. In the morning I have as an icon, My Day (My Day), which displays calendar events and applications that use often in the morning, like Twitter. Traffic may also appear, Calendar and Hangouts, I use to chat with colleagues.
But when I get to work I can find only with email, Hangouts, Calendar and something like Uber, I use to guide me in San Francisco. It’s simple, purely anticipatory and precise so general.
In iOS, application designers can make a little less: it prevents applications take over the screen, or see too much of what you do in other applications on the phone. So the predictive iPhone applications tend to focus primarily on their agenda or contacts. In iOS, Mynd produces a careful schedule context showing photos of the people you will meet; you get from Twitter and Facebook. Also making invitations directions agenda and tells how much take to reach venues.
EasilyDo on iOS and Android handles commitments in your calendar, hours and travel birthday. You can make travel plans and boarding passes email and manage your contacts. Of the two, EasilyDo has more potential, but it’s messy and I constantly pressured to upgrade to the paid version or download songs.
Both require access to much information about you, like all its calendar data, social profiles and email accounts which makes it feel invaded. But it would be as well if one of the two applications can fulfill its promise to do what the context-aware applications can supposedly do. To be fair, no application has fully we kept that promise. Listening to programmers dreamily discuss the possibilities still a journey into the future. Using applications do set foot on earth.
“The context is a world” said Ami Ben David, co-founder EverythingMe. “It’s going to change computing as we know, from my point of view. We’re going to start seeing computers as intelligent things with infinite computing power and infinite access to databases and therefore able to talk to us and give us what we want”.
It sounds wonderful! But it is not exactly what EverythingMe ago.
The location is the most powerful contextual technology I see element. But it is also the element that generates me concern for my privacy. When an application reads and your calendar, email, knows where he lives and works, where to travel, what interests you, something you do not know?