George Orwell’s ground-breaking 1984 is a political novel where the tyrannical leader of the Party, Big Brother, is constantly manipulating and controlling the public or Proles. Posters bearing the slogan ‘Big Brother is watching you’ dominate in a bid to control the populace. The novel has made a huge impact over the decades and today the concepts have entered our lives such as Doublethink, Newspeak not to mention Big Brother and Room 101 which are TV programmes!
We refer to an Orwellian society as one of deceit, control and manipulation. Fast forward to 2014 and the Net Threats report from Pew Research Centre which detailed how governments and large corporations and security services could influence the web and therefore what we read and buy online and that our history of online activity could be stored for future use. It’s not surprising that this may make some people a little uncomfortable, perhaps Orwell really did have a vision of the future.
All we need to do is search for a particular product online only to be bombarded by advertising relating to those searches every time we go into our email or back online again. The Internet of Things describes the future where ordinary objects will be connected to the internet and can identify themselves to other devices. They will be able to sense a certain characteristic then report or act upon the data. Wearable technology is a key area so glasses and clothing for example will become more useful with added technology.
Being monitored with our activities and tastes being noted is something we will have to get used to as it slowly becomes a part of our normal existence. Perhaps we just need to change our perception of Big Brother watching us and look at the value this technology can have on our lives. Usually it’s designed to our advantage, think about GPS tracker devices for example they are not just about tracking the movements of your children and pets, certain models can be used for social connectivity.
So dismiss the fact your friend or family member is spying on you and acknowledge the benefits of seeing the movements of and being able to communicate with your contacts and groups. Whether linking with an individual or a whole group, being able to connect and observe the movement of your friends’ and family is helpful in a social situation. It can give you peace of mind if you are on your own in a restaurant or wine bar and waiting for them to arrive.
If you are part of a running club or dog walking group, rather than feeling like you are being tracked, it can give you a sense of security and you can always click ‘hide’ so you can’t be found therefore control is at your fingertips if you want it. This may come in handy if you want to avoid your shopping trip giving away what your loved one is getting for Christmas!
Great for the lone worker, having an SOS button and an emergency static function where if you don’t move for a certain period of time, your contacts will be sent a text so they can check you’re OK. Being able to see the location of your friends and family on the same app cuts out so much time making the ‘where are you?’ calls but if you want to, you can also message them. These lifestyle management systems help streamline communication in a society where being part of a sandwich generation is fast becoming the norm.
So how does the future look in an Internet of Things world? Well, the options within the healthcare area are vast with smart watches logging and prompting tasks, barcodes being scanned to access medical records and for the patient, smart watch can instantly offer the doctor the important information they need for an accurate diagnosis. Wearable technology could even lead to improved survival rates.
Within the commercial world there are infinite marketing possibilities which will be aimed at the consumer, designed to specifically match their tastes. NFC chips will pick up vital information when they enter shops from their smart watches such as purchasing and browsing history and imagine if they could sense your mood. Information will be picked up by staff who are wearing headsets or their own smart watches.
They can address the customer knowing their tastes with a view to securing a cross sell or upsell. Payments can already be made via contact with your debit card or phone and soon you will be able to touch your smart watch against a sensor to make your payment. These sensors will also be able to note the items in your basket and could also help with reducing losses through shop lifting.
Wearable technology will also revolutionise travel. Facial recognition will negate the need for passports and information on your destination will arrive via your headset such as where your hotel is and how to get there. Travel details such as platform numbers and train times will be sent to you. Imagine jumping on to a train and your payment for the journey being taken off you as you alight because your smart watch has been detected. This is all possible in the not too distant future.
Uses of wearable technology are infinite and the benefits vast. Certainly there will be those that maintain a level of distrust, although wearable tech is still in its infancy, it’s here to stay.