All across the country mobile news hounds and bloggers are checking flight schedules and heading to airports to get ready for CES 2014. Many are hoping Las Vegas is a little warmer than the cold temperatures they are dealing with back home as they are packing and preparing to pass through security checkpoints. But the hot ticket at CES 2014 promises to be a device category in search of a solution as the Wearables revolution tries to take hold in the Age of Context.
Wearables want to be the next big thing. I’ve already said I don’t think they will be. Set aside the fact that most of what we’ve seen so far is only visually appealing to a Borg and requires battery maintenance that sets mobile tech back half a decade or so. On some levels they make perfect sense in a world about to be filled with sensors that provide the always connected with information based on context. And sensors are the key to making these wearable gadgets work.
There are some categories of human endeavor that seem a natural fit for context based wearables and sensors like home automation, better navigational aid, and assistance for the disabled. However we typically hear about how these kind of data sucking solutions will help us by providing us with advertising and information based on our location and our habits. Remember those storefronts that used to be everywhere advertising psychic readings? Those places always looked a little seedy and dangerous. Well, this new wave is supposed to be better than the psychics in helping us divine our path through life, and in some cases we’ll get to wear them on our faces or wrists, or in our clothing. And there is a seedy and dangerous element included as well as they become new data capturing methods.
The idea here is to supposedly help consumers make better informed choices about that coffee and dessert special that we didn’t know existed as we were walking down the street. But the real help will be to merchants and most importantly the merchants who sell advertising. Because that’s what this new wave will be all about. Companies talk about these things as world changing. They are. Some of them might actually be helpful and useful in the years to come.
Wouldn’t it be a better thing if these wearable solutions and data dissemination devices actually worked for consumers and citizens rather than for those who are grabbing the data those citizens and consumers create and trying to make a buck off of it? Yeah, crazy idea I know. But here are some crazy, and perhaps not so crazy ideas that I could see working for the benefits of ordinary humans instead of the bots that crunch and sell the data.
Sensors that don’t just tell us we’re eating or drinking too much. They deliver a shock to the system when we’re gorging ourselves or getting too tipsy. Believe it or not there’s actually talk about and some testing for sensors in cars that won’t allow a drunk driver to start a car. You think the fight over making seat belts mandatory was a hard?
Sensors that tell us that a purchase is tax deductible before we make the purchase.
Sensors that stop us from making an impulse purchase if it will put us over our budget.
Sensors that will tell consumers what the actual cost of merchandise is to the seller so we can all have fun bargaining.
Sensors that tell us when an item will go on sale and for how much.
Sensors that tell us to quickly leave a bar or other establishment when certain “friends” are heading to the same destination.
Sensors that allow us to monitor restaurant kitchens preparing our meals.
Sensors that tell us when the bartender is watering down our drink too much.
Sensors that tell us when gas prices are going to go up or down before they do.
Sensors that tell us the when the price of other commodities are about to rise or fall.
Sensors that tell us when a significant other is lying.
Sensors that tell us when a politician is lying. (This will never succeed because it would be alerting us every second of every minute of every day.)
Sensors that let us tell a seller or manufacturer when we like or hate a product or service immediately. Preferably this information is channeled directly to the CEO.
Sensors that let us respond thumbs up or thumbs down to commercials, ads, and media content immediately. Nielsen and other measurement agencies have always been a sham. Let’s put them out of business.
Sensors that automatically respond to spammers and telemarketers with a DDoS to their servers.
Sensors that tell us what data the NSA is monitoring and alerts us when it becomes the subject of a search. Nothing like a two way street.
Sensors that send immediate feedback to elected officials and politicians with approval or disapproval of an idea, and then chronicles that data on the Internet for all to see, so we don’t need pundits and politicos to tell us what they think we’re saying. This will not work because, it would actually be close to real democracy. But then again mob rule seems to be gaining new credence these days.
Sensors that tell us when Facebook, Twitter or other social networks are contemplating changes so we can protest ahead of time.
Sensors that tell us immediately when a Tweet or an item in our feeds is an advertisement and let’s us register our approval/disapproval immediately.
Sensors that tell us when a stock is being manipulated, by whom, and then immediately forwards an alert to the SEC.
Sensors that tell us automatically when companies sell our data they have used to create their value and then sends them an invoice for doing so.
Like I said, these ideas might seem a bit crazy. But if you think about the technology involved it really isn’t about the technology to make this possible. That most likely already exists. It would be about the political and business decisions to, heaven forfend, give consumers and citizens more control.