As I was driving to pick up my son from school the other day, I noticed I was running late, so I used Google Now to text him and tell him I was running late. It was probably more dangerous than actually texting – the voice command to say “text so-and-so” worked great, but when I saw what it came back with, I had to redo it twice before I sent it on its way. It kept showing the text it was going to send on the screen and asking if it was OK to send it! The whole reason why I used the voice commands to create the text was so that I didn’t have to use my hands – why didn’t it read it back to me? Maybe Siri would, I should ask her.
My smartphone knew it was heading towards his school. It even mapped my route. My calendar even details out his name and his school and the time to pick him up. It knows his phone number. Why, when it could see I was running late, didn’t it ask if it could text him? It could tell him a more accurate ETA than I could have given him, considering it knew upcoming traffic and travel time. Even better, why didn’t it just send him a text anyway, once it realized I was going to be late?
I was driving to the office this morning and I noticed that I was running low on gas. My smartphone based GPS should have automatically rerouted me to the nearest, cheapest gas station. It should have been seamless, but it wasn’t.
The seamless world is coming. Big data, the internet of things and automation will fuse to make it happen.
Pretty soon, we will know nearly everything about everything. Every device is studded with a ton of sensors, and those sensors are capturing a huge amount of data. All we really need to do (as if that’s as easy as pie) is to mine that data for patterns. For example, right now, apps like Now can predict when you will be travelling, and present relevant information. But they only do some light data mining – such as your calendar and maybe past trips to specific locations. Every smartphone is loaded with sensors, and like we only use a tiny portion of our brains, we are only using a tiny portion of the sensors out there. We need to build engines which can predict our patterns and then use those predictions to develop recipes to make our lives easier.
Sure, there are privacy issues to deal with, but I think we’ve seen that recently, time and time again, people are willing to give up some of their privacy, as long as they are getting a useful service in return. Privacy for utility, as Scoble puts it.
The Internet of Things
All of this data is not just coming from smart things, like our phones, but dumb things, like wearables, beacons and other Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) tags and stickers. These dumb things can report all sorts of interesting information back to our smart things, and those smart things can then report those things back to the cloud, and then those prediction engines can tell us even more. At some point, fairly soon, you will be able to scatter a grid of these beacons wherever you like, and those things can report all sorts of interesting data to the engine. Like the way you move around in a store. Or track the products you pick up, put down or carry with you. Or automatically send (and pay for) your Starbucks order to the barista before you walk into the shop.
The final piece of a seamless world is automation. All of the above is great, but those systems still, to this day, always ask for permission from you before they do things. Imagine something like IFTTT for everything you do – not just on the web. In my example above, big data and the internet of things determine that I need gas. When it asks me “do you want to get gas now?” it could also ask “do this automatically from now on”. If you say yes, it will create and save a “recipe“, so that when the same situation occurs, it will automatically perform the action. Imagine that now, all of these little decisions that you had to make are automatically taken care of for you. And if you ever change your mind, there will be an app to let you delete or revise the recipe.
Have you had a chance to think about this world? It’s coming along faster than you think. Google announced consumer sales of Google Glass, another device which can help track anything and everything. Wearables are going stronger than ever, contributing more and more things to the internet of things, and more big data to chew on. Kickstarter had a huge quarter, mostly on hardware startups and internet of things products. All of this is coming together, and it’s probably past time to start thinking about it.
What is your wearables strategy? How can you use beacons and other BLE devices in order to improve your customer’s experiences and your bottom line? Will you be stuck in the past while the rest of the world goes seamless?
I don’t know about you, but I prefer working with companies who can make my life easier. Will you be one of them?