Why The ‘Internet Of Me’ Will Take Off
Ken Blakeslee is Producer and Chairman of the Contextual Technologies Day at The Technology Expo at London Vinopolis, Oct 5th & 6th. Chairman of Webmobility Ventures, Ken here gives his insights into why the contextual technologies which are forming an ’Internet of Me’ are set for the stars.
The Internet of Things has caught our imagination for several years now. But there is a new movement and groupings within Internet of Things that are starting to deliver on this promise. One such area is ‘The Internet of Me’. This moniker is simply another way to refer to contextual technologies – devices that base their functions around the needs, senses and situations of the individuals they serve.
With Disney just announcing the Internet of Toys, I think it’s timely and relevant to have a look at what the Internet of Things ‘Big Data’ Cloud means in terms of the value-producing sub-Clouds it might be composed of and hopefully serve in a meaningful way. Connected devices and sensors, combined with processing power, data storage and analysis are springing up in pockets, in the home, car, workplace and many other sub-Cloud ecosystems that stand alone yet can connect in a secure and relevant way.
There is little doubt that consumers, armed with simple to use enabling technologies have changed large industries and moved them on to new ways to serve up their value propositions. Music and video content distribution are but two examples with healthcare and financial payment methods in the process of change right now. The most enabling technologies are the ones that add context and relevance to the actions and infotainment needs of people.
Contextual technologies (CT) are those that help you interact with the world around you in a new way. The environment around each individual at any particular time is the ‘context’ in which these devices sit and is what gives them their purpose. But it’s not just physical attributes in your environment that are context indicators - our own five senses are a key type of context sensing and are the key user interface as well. CT has the power to alter the way we perceive and interact with the world around us.
This is a revolution in perspective just as much as innovation. The way we frame things has to change to reflect what CT is all about. The paradigm of an Internet of Things that interconnects and subsumes everything around us is, quite frankly, out of date. And this is because CT takes the individual as its vantage point instead. In this case, the Internet of Things is really The Internet of Me.
The sky is the limit. Well, in some cases contextual technology can go beyond that – for example, a funky contraption called Birdly uses a Virtual Reality headset and a special table to let you experience what it’s like to soar like an eagle.
These new possibilities are not just otherworldly and thought provoking. They also can be tremendously useful. As our understanding of both machine learning and human behaviour deepens, CT will gradually unlock more solutions for individual users, be they productivity-conscious employees, fitness junkies, foodies or average life-loving consumers.
Ostensibly, the common thread between these brilliant ideas is how they tap into our five senses. While there’s no denying that creativity is crucial here, what is often overlooked is how contextual technology has shifted the importance of technology to focus on the individual user - that is you. These innovations do make it possible to enhance lifestyle in many new and valuable ways. Furthermore the infrastructure to link them up in a secure and trusted manner is falling into place.
So the task at hand is to now concentrate on the bringing together of the technologies from a user centric standpoint and making it simple and intuitive to use.
Contextual technologies such as sensors, actuators, screens and other connected I/O devices are now found in the home, car and even being worn by people and are facilitating new approaches to healthcare, fitness, infotainment delivery, social/family networks, augmented and virtual reality, etc.
As innovation and technology, these devices are interesting in their own right, and have been the focus of whole events and topics of great discussion and debate. But it all now needs to start to gel into higher-level solutions that serve peoples’ needs in a broader, lifestyle enhancing way. The challenge now is more about how these can all coalesce into ecosystems that bring one’s personal cloud and the contextual technologies together to form the beginnings of an “Internet of Me”. Hopefully in a self-serving way so the personal cloud can securely reach out to the Internet of Things’ Big Data Cloud to get snippets of relevance to serve individual consumers in a more holistic way. This is rather than pushing your context info out to third parties to have and do as they please. This is a higher level and more enriching phase we are moving into than in the technology centric and device driven past.
Remember that this is a story about ‘you’. CT has an irreducibly personal focus, context is not some abstract idea, but is made up of your own quirks and beliefs. In fact, many times these quirks are impossible to pin down without technology. Take your heart rate for instance. Fitness wearables find this out for you and suggest suitable workout regimes. Because calorie burn is accurately measured, you can treat yourself after and still stay ahead of the game.
There’s possibly no sector in which user identity is as critical as healthcare. CT is rapidly having impact into this area and will be to some degree consumer driven thanks to CT and people’s desire to know more about what’s happening, often referred to as “Quantified Self”.
CT and wearable tech are also poised to have an effect on the workplace as it offers huge potential in increasing worker productivity and helping employers optimise their workloads and logistics. By 2020 Forrester predicts that wearables will be common in many organisations whilst by 2024 they will be indispensable. “Working Smart” increases job satisfaction as well.
Privacy concerns abound for individual users though. It can feel unsettling that your entire digital footprint is monitored and mined. Personal information must be held closely and with very specific types of access by trusted entities should be allowed. Apple’s Health App is a good example of closely held data and only allowing input, access and analysis by trusted entities. I expect many examples of misplaced trust before brands and individuals get this right, but it is an indication that the individual can manage privacy themselves. This area needs to improve, and I think will.
The UK Digital Catapult’s recent ‘Trust in Personal Data’ report highlights that eight in ten people believe that third party organisations use their personal data primarily for their own economic gain. People need to understand how data collection can be used for the benefit of the consumer and society, not the brand. 43% of consumers could be convinced to share personal data if they knew it would improve society. 29% of respondents would be convinced to share their personal data if doing so would improve their experience of that organisation’s service. What companies should do above all else, therefore, is explain to users how they can add to the benefits that contextual technologies – or The Internet of Me – can provide to them.
We are in an era of technology enabled, but consumer driven change. And change for the good in my opinion. Rapid change as well. Lots to figure out and a bit of trial and error, but that makes it both challenging and exciting.
I’m excited by the myriad of fascinating applications and lifestyle-enhancing – or even life-saving – qualities that contextual technologies can deliver. I believe consumers will embrace and expand the personal empowerment they feel already, despite any privacy concerns and help write the story and define the roadmap for the Internet of Me.
To learn more about The Technology Expo, visit: the-tech-expo.com