The shift from wearables to pervasive sensor data
Watch out wearables, you just may become passé quicker than the latest fashions on a model sashaying down the catwalk. You didn't think nerdy glasses, clunky wrist watches and bands, or even implants were going to remain hot forever did you? OK, those will still be around for awhile longer but people aren't going to continue adorning their bodies with tech, even adorable tech, when pervasive sensors can lighten their load and free their fashion choices to something less encumbering.
The shift to pervasive sensors is already underway. What does that mean, you might ask?
Wearables are sensors dedicated to interpreting you and the world from your perspective. Pervasive sensors, on the other hand, sit in places throughout the environment where they study and respond to you when you're in the vicinity. You have to carry around the wearables; the pervasive sensors just sit and wait for you to pass by.
Or, as Natasha Lomas puts it in her post in TechCrunch: "This is the sensible trajectory of connected sensor technology. The world around us gains the ability to perceive us, rather than wearable sensors trying to figure out what's going on in our environment by taking a continuous measure of us."
Make no mistake, sensors will soon be everywhere. Pervasive computing and pervasive sensors will lighten our load considerably in terms of what we must carry around on our bodies or in our pockets.
However, they will also increase the fishbowl effect--meaning there will be almost no opportunity for personal privacy. You can, at least, take off or shut off a wearable device--at least those that you own. There isn't much you can do about a Google Glass wearer who may be observing and recording you from across the restaurant or on the street, though you can still try. Pervasive sensors, however, are not something you can set aside or easily shut down.
Privacy issues aside, most people will find many of the sensors helpful and useful to the individual as well as to society at large. For example, just as a car can automatically call for help now if there is a crash and the driver is unable to summon help on his own, soon the environment can note that a person is injured or ill and automatically summon help for them. Sensors in the ambulance or hospital will soon be able to identify you and provide your medical records to emergency personnel instantly. These sensors can do far more than that of course.
Consider Disney's MagicBands, which are wearables, and how they are used to add convenience and interactive experiences at Walt Disney World. You can see a demo on how those work in the video below.
Click here to watch the video on YouTube
With pervasive sensors, no wristbands will be needed to do those very same things as the sensors in the environment will recognize each person and behave accordingly without the need to wear anything or tap the wearable against another sensor. You simply walk up and do whatever you want (well, those things that the system will allow). Imagine never standing in line at a cash register--you just pick up an item and walk out. The item will be charged to your credit or debit card without you having to do anything extra. No more lines, no more tapping one device against another, no more looking for a door or car key, no more hassles in practically any person-to-object interaction.
Rest assured that data about you and your activities will flow to other parties at an enormous rate whether you are using wearables or depending on pervasive sensors. But, for the most part, that data will be working on your behalf and for your convenience. It might even save your life one day.
- check out the TechCrunch post
Google's Project Tango packs powerful 3D image sensor chips in mobile devices
How emergency managers, first responders use big data
There's a battle brewing over the soul of big data
Google wearables to add to planned bioinformatics database (FierceMedicalDevices)