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November 27, 2008

Extra sensory perception

LONDON, England – We got our first snow of the winter at the weekend, despite the fact that technically we’re still in Autumn (cue annual debate about seasons). This is interesting only because of what happened to me when I got into my car. Early on Sunday morning, it was 1 degree centigrade. Not cold by Finnish standards, but chilly enough for the middle of November in London. What happened next surprised me, and also made me think.

My car seemed more clued into what was going on than I was. When I turned the key, a whole bunch of stuff happened. The wipers, sensing the windscreen was covered in something, came on and cleared off the snow. The lights, sensing it was darker than usual, came on. The air con, sensing it was colder than usual (and due to the temperature difference inside and out, sensing the windows were fogged) automatically started clearing them. And a little snow flake appeared on my dashboard.

If you drive a premium or luxury car, this is what you expect (I imagine). But I don’t. I own a Ford (sorry Henry, but you did set out to build cars for the masses). Ford is, I might suggest, a bit like Nokia for cars. In that it has a model to suit most, is accessible, affordable and as I’ve recently discovered switched onto design and innovation.

For a long while now “Context aware” has been a mantra thrown about by everyone from designers to product managers at Nokia. Context aware is exactly what my car was on Sunday. And it made me think about what might be possible with my phone.

I’m not a futurologist, so don’t profess to know what my phone will be able to do when I’m older, but I’ve seen and heard enough to know that it has to be pretty exciting. I don’t care much right now for whether my phone can read my heart rate (maybe I should be…) or other medical related matters. But I do care about how my phone is going to pull the myriad information it has access to together and turn it into something useful for me.

What if, for example, it knew that I was soon to be leaving my desk (by cross-referencing my calendar to see where I was meant to be at that time) and sucking up a whole bunch of stuff it knew I needed for the journey – quickly grabbing the news, firing me an alarm about the weather, and as Nokia Traffic is looking at, letting me know about a traffic jam before I get into my car.

What if it knew that I had arrived back at my desk and instead of me switching on Bluetooth and performing a sync, it did this without me even realising. The possibilities are limited only by the imaginations of those who are providing the solutions. I used to take context aware with a big pinch of salt, treating it sometimes with the disdain that I might proffer another piece of marketing hyperbole. Not anymore. What about you?



Photo by Emzee

Thumbnail image from *~Dawn~*