Ambient Analytics: Will Wearable Gadgets Open the Floodgates to Glut?
James Kobielus 06000021Q7 firstname.lastname@example.org | 2013-05-07 12:14:10.0 | 0 Comments | 1,755 Visits
Ambient analytics refers to any tool that allows us to monitor the suitability of physical environments to our standards and purposes. Essentially, ambient analytics consume sensor data--aka "ambient data"--in order to gauge one or more indicator of environmental suitability. Think of the "Internet of Things"--aka the "sensor Internet"--as the backbone for ambient analytics applications of all sorts: consumer, industrial, scientific, medical, and so forth. At its most extreme, the vision involves deploying connected sensors into every human environment and into every nook and cranny of the natural world.
One of the exciting new trends in ambient analytics is the ability to monitor and control a wide range of personal environments. People everywhere are incorporating sensor-bearing mobile devices into their lives: carrying and wearing them around, installing them in their cars and houses, buying products that embed them, and even having them implanted in their bodies. The vogue in "quantified life" reflects the fact that people realize they can continuously monitor their entire personal environment on every level and, with the right analytics, use what they find to tweak and tune every aspect of their existence to their satisfaction.
It will be interesting to see how the average person, once they're armed with continuous ambient analytics, will negotiate those situations where they share a common environment--such as an office, car, or house--but have differing thresholds for suitability of various indicators (e.g., temperature, humidity, noise, toxins, animal dander, etc.). You can well imagine situations where people, having immediate and continuous access to formerly invisible ambient indicators, modify their behavior to avoid living patterns that they now realize are adverse to their best interest. You can also imagine ample opportunity for interpersonal, community, and legal disputes over such quality-of-life matters, with ambient analytics used by all parties to prove their case.
It will also be interesting to see what happens as people start to realize their intra-body ambience (pulse, blood pressure, stress levels, etc.) is impacted, negatively or positively, by the specific presence and behaviors of others. Think of personal ambient analytics as a potential power tool for biofeedback on a societal level.
And, as we enable people to interact with ambient analytics through virtual reality, augmented reality, touchscreen, gesture, and motion-sensor interfaces, think of this new technology as changing the fundamental relationship that all humans have with the physical environment.
The "wearable" revolution in smart-gadget personal adornment is just getting started. No, I'm not advocating you adopt Google Glass as your personal cyberdork trendoid accessory. Unless that's your style. Don't let me cramp it.
What will drive, and ultimately determine, the mass adoption of wearables is fashion, pure and simple. And of course marketing. Not to mention the crazy vicissitudes of fads, manias, and other things none of us can predict perfectly. But it seems likely that some category of wearables--perhaps nothing like the ones currently on the market--will catch hold. And it's also extremely likely that wearables will be integrated fully into the cloud, the Internet of Things, and into big data infrastructures of various shapes and sizes.
Smartwatches? Will those become everybody's smart wearable of choice? If Apple's investing deeply in it (http://bit.ly/17n10B9), you definitely have to watch out for it (no pun intended). I'm not a watch wearer myself or even much of an Apple fan, but that's beside the point. But I can't help but thinking that whatever type of wearable catches on will be a mixed blessing for the human race.
On the one hand, wearables will facilitate finely personalized apps that integrate intimately (in all senses of the word) with your smartphones, tablets, and other personal gadgets. They will enable new types of applications in healthcare, exercise, diet, scheduling, geolocation, and other important areas. That's on the positive side.
On the negative side of the balance, wearables will become a key source of glut, both in the infrastructure and in our personal lives. Sensor data from wearables will overload all public big-data cloud services. And, strapped to our persons like new sensory organs, these gadgets will become a constant distraction, pushing far more in real-time continuous streaming data to our attentions than is healthy.
You thought distracted driving was bad? Wearables will make distracted walking, talking, sitting, eating, breathing, and sleeping even more commonplace. I don't even want to think about it.