Friday, 7 March 2014

A future scenario with my idea of smart technology

After using my Pebble for a week and really enjoying the experience, I can't help but wonder what's next in the wearable market. Apple has a great track record of taking a concept that already exists and boiling it down to what that product can do better, and while I mentioned in my review, I think Pebble is on the right track for what I personally want in a "smart watch", I think Apple's experience with the iPad can teach us a lot. Most people (myself included), immediately brushed off the iPad as a bigger iPhone/iPod touch, which they already had, so why did they need one they couldn't fit in their pocket?  But Apple knew that the iPad would be better at a few key things, namely browsing the Internet, looking at photos, and reading email. Obviously, looking at the market now where tablet sales will overtake traditional computer sales within a year or so, they hit the nail on the head. I'm not sure what it will be, if I did I'd hopefully be working for Apple, but I'm sure they're going to come up with something for their wearable product that all at once makes you go "I can't believe I didn't think of that" and "I can't live without this from now on".

All of this has gotten me thinking about the future of technology, and what we might expect to see in the next few years. Particularly, as smart phones get fast and more powerful, what kinds of new experiences we might get as a result of carrying around a powerful, capable computer in our pockets. With the Pebble, no longer needing to reach in to my pocket to see every notification is nice. While I'm driving, being able to tap my wrist to answer call without taking my eyes off the road, or hands off the steering wheel, has been useful already. Weather is a glance away with the right watch face. Not needing to turn on my phone's screen for these simple tasks has actually been extending my iPhone's battery life more than keeping my connection to the Pebble drains it, as I guessed it might in my review. The iPhone does all the heavy lifting and the watch is a simple way for it to relay the information I need at a glance. What else could the iPhone do while still in my pocket?

With iBeacons, some companies are already exploring what I think will be a standard technology in a few years. For those of you that don't know, iBeacons can be placed throughout pretty much any location and relay information to and from your phone. For instance, a recent concept I saw allows you to open an app for a store you're visiting, scan items with your phone to add to a wish list, get information through descriptions and video relevant to where you are standing in the store, and more. The thing that interested me the most, however, was the iPad set up in the store that would detect the app on your phone and recognize you, even if your phone was in your pocket, and bring up your wish list when you touched the screen. This is great for shopping experiences, but I can see more every day use of this kind of technology. Since an iPad can function as an iBeacon, what's stopping an iMac or other kind of computer from functioning the same way? Or a special monitor? I'll explain what I mean.

I imagine a few years from now my day could look like this;

I wake up in the morning and my watch transfers my sleep data to my phone, where I can look up my movement and monitor sleep patterns. I go to get a shower and my phone tells the tiny screen on my mirror that I'm in the room, which then displays the weather for the day and reminds me of my meeting at 9am. In the car, my dash recognizes both my phone and my girlfriend's phone (actually she'll probably kill me if we're not at least engaged by then) and lets us choose who's music library we'll listen to (mine). It can sort out our maps and appointments as well, and since it knows who's driving, create a route that makes sense with me dropping her off first, then continuing on my way.

At work, my iMac will still be my primary work station, but it will wake up and log in once it detects my phone/me. I can set up using touch ID on my watch or phone as a password to unlock the computer if I choose for some extra security. Today, I use an iPad at work if I need to show an ad design or something to someone else in the office, and just transfer the image to the iPad through email or dropbox. I'd like to think if Apple wanted to, iPads as they currently exist could be cut out completely. Instead, you have the option to buy a thin, light screen in a few different sizes. They'd still call these things iPads probably, but like the watch, the heavy lifting is done through the iPhone, and the new iPad is thinner and lighter than ever before because the iPhone is providing all the muscle. They could still have decent processors, capable of browsing and the tasks most people use iPads for, but like the 15 inch Retina MacBook Pro can switch between integrated and discreet graphics now, it could tap in to your phone or a nearby computer to borrow some juice for more intense activities. AirDrop and iCloud allow you to share files between devices more easily than ever.

After work, I head to the mall, where I approach a monitor that talks to my phone and detects which apps are already there and what I might have looked up prices for. It knows my buying habits and brings up a map highlighting which stores have sales on things I might be interested in, any coupons or deals I might want, and generally makes the shopping experience much more personal, just upon entry. Entering a store brings up things from that store's app, and purchases can be paid for through a simple Touch ID transaction from my watch. If I don't have the app, iOS can detect the iBeacon and suggest I download it, which I can accept right from my watch without having to pull my phone out of my pocket. These iBeacons also allow my phone to be location aware without always having to resort to battery draining GPS, making check-ins a snap, and there's an option in iOS to allow iBeacons to intelligently open and close relevant apps automatically, keeping you from needing to have multiple apps running at the same time, again saving battery life and the need to take your phone out and manually select which apps are open.

Through monitors like the ones in the mall, or even other people's computers, you could access your email, documents, etc through iCloud, with your phone seamlessly logging you in, while nothing is stored on the monitors themselves, keeping security risks of using public terminals at a minimum. Obviously with all of this connectivity there are security and privacy risks, but again if I could figure out all of this stuff on my own, I'd likely be working at Apple or somewhere like that, instead of daydreaming in my blog.

At the end of the day, brushing my teeth before bed, that same mirror could display my steps for the day vs. any fitness goals I may have set, and other monitored activity, my appointments for tomorrow, and the weather forecast.

I'll stop there, because I could go on for pages thinking about different little concepts, but through that whole day I hardly mentioned having to take my phone out of my pocket.

I really see the phone as the center of our computing lives in the future. With the A7 chip, I've experienced blazing fast speeds in everything from games to video editing. Give it a couple of years, and I still don't see it replacing a desktop for professional level stuff, but I can envision it lending it's smarts to other devices and affording them to be cheaper, smaller, lighter, and much more convenient.

What do you think? Is all of this a bit too much? Did I miss any kind of integration you'd like to see? Let me know in the comments.

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