According to Justin Rattner, CTO of Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC),
technology has come a long way from the wildly popular 70s fad, the mood ring, where the color of the ring gauged our mood by detecting ambient skin temperature fluctuations.
Intelís context-aware computing, specifically for smartphones, may soon read our moods in order to serve content or streamline applications for our use.
Letís first examine the technology being developed by Intel. Second, letís show a few examples of just how this sensory technology may be used. Finally, letís analyze the potential security and privacy ramifications of such a tool.
This technology incorporates geo-location data with microphone and camera information and integrates it with body sensors that measure heart rate, body temperature, and even brain scans. It then analyzes this data and offers advice.
At the Intel Developer Forum (IDF 2010) last week, Rattner explained: "By [collating] hard sensor information such as where you are and the conditions around you -- combined with soft sensors such as your calendar, your social network, and past preferences -- future devices will constantly learn about who you are, how you live, work, and play."
Some potential benefits from using such an application technology are illustrated in the following examples:
- Fodorís online travel Website used context-aware technology at the IDF 2010 conference to show how helpful and intuitive a digital handheld device or PVA (personal vacation assistant) could become as a travel companion and guide.
The device collects data over time to create a profile of your likes and dislikes. It determines your location and can suggest restaurants serving your favorite cuisines and your typical price range within a designated radius you have entered. It can also suggest hotels, museums, plays, and movies within that area, based on your particular preferences.
- In the field of healthcare, context-aware technology can be tremendously useful for the elderly. Using both a gyro and body sensors, it is possible to determine a personís everyday swing and gait movements through daily activities. The device can anticipate either imbalances or obscure movements and alert either the wearer or someone else about a potentially dangerous situation.
- Context-aware technology can also be applied through a small camera attached to a TV. This device recognizes the viewer and what programming preferences most fit his or her profile based on data compiled over a period of time.
These are just a few examples of how this type of "ubiquitous computing" will begin to touch our lives in the very near future.
As with every cost/benefit analysis, there are also some downsides: In this case, privacy and security could be major stumbling blocks.
As all of this hard and soft sensory data is being collected and synthesized through multiple algorithms to create inference data, the potential for privacy violations is very real.
Rattner said in an Intel Newsroom article: ďOur vision is to enable devices to generate and use contextual information for a greatly enhanced user experience while ensuring the safety and privacy of an individualís personal information."
Although there is no timetable for when hardware and software solutions will be available to prevent or defend security attacks and ensure privacy for this technology, Intel says they are on the way.
Without question, people will be very skeptical about the constant tracking and dissemination of their personal data. Without concrete evidence of these issues being resolved, this next generation of smartphones will struggle for acceptance.
But the technology and the possibilities for its application seem both impressive and limitless.
— Chris Poley has been a professional trader for more than 20 years.