Thursday, 12 June 2014

The internet of me

There is an old gag that on leaving the house a man makes the sign of the cross. He is not religious, it stands for: spectacles, testicles, wallet, watch. A quick check to see they have all the essentials items a man needs to be a man.

Today’s version would have to include the phone. It is far more vital to our daily existence than any of the others. In fact increasingly we are now leaving home with a digital ecosystem which defines what it is to be a digital citizen. Each item no longer exists in isolation. Our smartphones are the key, the hub for all our new devices and has the potential to replace at least one of them, the wallet.  This trend will only continue.

As we adopt wearables we move from having a single digital device to a collection of independent but symbiotic internet devices. Our wristbands and smart watches can act as information conduits but also collect data, and feed it back to our smartphone. They will assess our health and wellbeing. Some of the work in deciding what to do with the data will take place on the device but most will be done on our smartphone apps talking to external health databases and where appropriate to our health providers and insurers.

Smart glasses will augment our experiences, again using the smartphone as the conduit to the external data sources. Image recognition, location services, pricing comparison, social communication will all travel through the smartphone hub to our personal internet of devices.

A lot of the time this will result in automatous actions that do not require input from the owner. Where you are, your schedule, your habits, your diary, your needs will be assessed to make decisions on your behalf. Within your own ecosystem of physical devices and the wider personal information stored in countless cloud services rules will run and instructions will be sent out.

While we are still awaiting the impact of the Internet of Things we are starting to see the Internet of Me. A world where devices are networking and making decisions for my benefit. Based on my very personal needs and state. The internet of me means the power of my network of devices is greater than of them individually.  If a new device comes along or I upgrade my health monitoring device then the other devices in the network could have access to this new data and functionality. The combination of the data from more personal sources makes the decisions which can be made more accurate, wider reaching etc.

Google always have, and recently Apple have been opening out their platforms so that third parties can  build solutions that will easily communicate and co-operate. For the time being we have to be in one or the other camp, but device makers will profit from supporting both. The added capabilities and ease of collaboration will determine what is capable on each platform.

Commercially it will open a whole new market, where tomorrow’s Apples and Facebooks will be born. Certain device combinations will hit the sweet spot and deliver killer apps. A man will not be judged by the cut of his suit but the configuration of his internet.

Socially, The Internet of Me will further widen the digital divide. Already just having access to the internet gives an advantage over those without access. If we extend this to the Internet of Me then the individual with their own ecosystem has a definite advantage over one who does not. They may be able to get access to beter healthcare or lower insurance premiums. They can have immediate access to greater amounts of contextual information. They are more likely to be targeted with promotions and offers and make savings.  How will society and governments deal with these digital inequalities, or will they even try?

So what is the new sign of the cross? Smartphone, smartwatch, ARglasses, biometric earphones, and not forgetting testicles. Somethings never change.

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