Tag Archives: privacy

‘Divergence’ – the computing around us – my mobile 2020 predictions

I just finished reading Mobile Trends 2020 from M-Trends and it’s great to see what some of the leaders in the industry are thinking about for the next decade.  This is the presentation:

I’ve been offering some predictions in the talks I’ve been giving lately – like the one I did at XMedia Lab Sydney and Over The Air 2009 (click to see my post/slides on this).  Broadly they could be summed up in the final slide which had the message: “Your mobile was just the FIRST connected device.”  I introduced this by making more specific predictions that:

– Mobile will take centre stage (in our computing lives)

– Everything becomes connected (even our clothes.  Yes, I want an umbrella that wirelessly knows when it’s going to rain and beeps at me as I leave my flat, reminding me to take it with me.)

– Everything becomes filtered by location (and this drastically changes our relationship to content and its meaning)

– Mass participation and creativity will grow (because more and more of the unconnected will become connected).

So, broadly I was glad to see that alot of the experts in the industry were talking along the same lines.  Really encouraged, actually, even if their predictions were generally alot more informed and nuanced than mine.

What struck me though, is that there isn’t really a name for the trend that’s being widely predicted about what I’d call ‘the computing that happens around us.’  Broadly, I’d say this is a combination of: wearable/embedded/environmental technology, ubiquitous connectivity, context awareness and pervasive screens.

Depending on who you talk to, ‘convergence’ has happened or is about to happen.  iPhones and Android handsets are here, Netbooks are taking off and there’s that persistant rumour about the Apple Tablet and firm plans for other tablet devices (newspaper killers?!).  Sooner or later, I think we’ll all end up with a ‘smart’ converged device that will connect into the ‘computing around us’ that I described above.

So, I’d like to propose that at good name for this trend of smaller computing points on/in our bodies that connect to other computing points/screens in our environment be ‘divergence.’  Why?  Because what fundamentally underlies it is a move from us each having one personal computer that we interact with to a world where we interact with many computers simultaneously and sometimes unknowingly, even if much of this computing is/will be consumed through our converged devices (which will remain important!).

I’d like to propose that at good name for this trend of smaller computing points on/in our bodies that connect to other computing points/screens in our environment be ‘divergence.’

Broadcaster have had to (or are) shifting from a one-to-many model to a one-to-one model with their content.  Soon, I think we will move from a one-to-one (or a few) model for our user-to-pc access to a one-to-many model for our pc/mobile access.  We’ll have devices that are ‘ours’, devices that ‘know’ (recognise) us and devices that are ‘unknown’ but that we still share information and data with (often in a passive sense) – the level of trust and permission we permit these diverged devices to have will depend on which of these categories they fall into.

Please, let me know what you think.


Views of – and into – the future

1984I read George Orwell’s 1984 when I was way too young and have carried its message with me – possibly too closely – through my career in technology and media.  Working in the space, its far too easy to see how the tables could be turned, allowing for a society with pervasive surveillance and monitoring to arise.  I already live in a country that’s covered with CCTV and find it a little too Big Brother like (and i’m not talking about the TV series here, folks).

In reading Halting State by Charles Stross, a similar – but less sinister and more dysfunctional – world view emerged. 

Stross creates a world where technology has (largely) been developed with the best of intentions but sometimes its failures or misuses lead to disastrous consequences.  In his near future, the characters wear glasses that automatically anticipate what their wearer needs and projects it for them – very cool – at first I couldn’t wait to sign up to get a pair.

But, what happens when these don’t function QUITE as you’d expect – at one point a policewoman wearing them has CopSpace (the all pervasive police information service that communicates with her glasses) crashes in the middle of a police manuever leaving her helpless.  Do we want to be THAT dependent on our techology?  The idea of CopSpace is sinister enough – but devices that make us dependent on it and that aren’t reliable make it seem truely scary, to me. And what of the character who’s fighting in a virtual world on his and ends up getting stabbed in the real world because he forgets the guy he’s fighting in the virtual world is standing only a few feet away in the real world? 

Halting StateOne chapter is called “Systems Fail People Die” – and I think this illustrates perfectly what could go wrong in a world where we become overdependent on underperforming technology and systems. 

The plot of Halting State revolves around a blur between the boundaries of reality, gaming and other media.  Pervasive gaming – via the video glassses – is prevelant and characters are faced with deciphering when messages they get from their ‘games’ might be from authorities in the real world and not just characters.  Initially, it sounds cool and entertaining – but as the characters find out that these systems could be using them as pawns in something far more sinister, it becomes creepier.

Please don’t read this as me being anti-technology – I’m not.  Much of the technology that Stross describes could be wonderful and make our world a better place – but there’s a fine line between personal services and surveillance systems.  Thanks to Phillip for suggesting this good read.

On the upside of this and back in the real world, I heard from Ken Brady (CEO of Genkii) today about the launch of Sparkle – the first live mobile touchpoint that allows users to communicate into virtual worlds while they’re on the go.  Seems great to me – allowing users a pervasive connection to their virtual lives (ok, it’s only Second Life for now but that’s still damn cool) can only strengthen their relationship with the content and services there.  From what I can see (still wishing for an iPhone here!) this is a great first step towards something I blogged about shortly after I met Ken in Korea last year.

Check out this video of how it works and the coverage its had on TechCrunch: