Home » Change, Future

When Your Smart Phone Knows Everything

Submitted by on November 9, 2009 – 7:16 amOne Comment

RedLasrerCross-posted from Forbes: I just finished watching the video for Red Laser, a real-time bar code scanner that works on the iPhone (video below the fold).     Just hold the camera-eye over the UPC code and get ready for results to show up from Google Product Search or Amazon.   Then begin reading customer reviews, comparing prices etc. The clue to forecasting the future is to watch the trendline – not the snapshot.  Redlaser may be a bit clunky right now, not everyone has an iPhone etc.  That is the snapshot.   Here is the trendline:   We are becoming accustomed to using our phones in-the-moment to answer all manner of questions (who was the actor in that film? and so on).  This small behavioral change has huge implications as more and more of our physical world finds its data-doppleganger online:

  • How long before we can scan any food product and know more about its ingredients than the misleading label tells us?
  • How long before every in-store customer seamlessly moves online to the vast Internet marketplace to find the rock-bottom price and bargain with the store manager?
  • How long before every object’s identity in the physical world can be referenced to a super-set of attributes such as reviews, ingredients, price comparison, carbon rating etc.

This referencing need not be through a set of UPC codes that you consciously scan.   Just as your computer can access the Gracenote database to identify the artist, tracks and times of a random music CD that you put into your drive,  we are heading into a time when any experience will likely be passively cataloged (movies you are watching, music you are listening to and so on) for later reference. This has quite a few implications: (1) I think these technologies will accelerate  a race to the bottom on pricing as ever more shoppers with a mobile do product and price-comparison at the in-store point of sale. (2) Thus service and experience based products will become even more critical to a retailer’s success. (3) Product (or service) quality will increasingly trump crafty advertising as the only sustainable advantage once customers have instant access to more reviews and information from peers. 4) Environmental and other cause issues will be of increased importance as consumers will find it easier to live out their values in their product purchases. (5) Personal data – your location, wayfinding through the mall, product searches and even your exposure to ambient types of advertising (did you watch that commercial?) will be captured via your mobile device.  This is already happening in simple form via IMMI (be afraid) for those willing to get a free mobile device in exchange for being tracked 24/7. Overall I believe that these technologies will empower people by giving them more access to valuable, peer-created information.  However, these last predictions (or rather observations on the growth of what is already taking place) should cause a healthy amount of anxiety about personal privacy.  I have committed a fair amount of time writing about these issues on O’Reilly Radar.  Like all powerful technology the benefits need to be framed within a structure that protects our ability to act as free agents in the world.

One Comment »

Leave a comment!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.