Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Can Your Smartphone Predict Your Future?

An interesting new feature for smartphones is being tested in the UK. 

And when I say “interesting”, I really mean futuristic/crazy/almost scary intel!  Soon, your phone may be able to tell where you are going, predict your future movements throughout a day, and adjust accordingly. 

Now, understand this with me.  I do not mean GPS tracking where you are.  That is a cool feature and most people with at least a decent level of smartphone intelligence have benefited from real-time map directions, traffic updates, “near me” restaurant recommendations and weather reports.  Those are wonderful, but not what I am talking about here.

I am talking about future-predicting smartphones; basically tracking your past movements and recording what your friends do to determine what you are most likely doing next.

According to Mashable, researchers at the University of Birmingham have developed a remarkably accurate algorithm that follows users’ mobility patterns and factors in patterns of people in their social networks to adjust for abnormalities. 

The algorithm has been tested on 200 volunteers, whose smartphones tracked their every move for months. The result was pretty accurate predictions of where they would likely be 24 hours in the future. 
The challenge now is to establish the capabilities of this future-prediction feature that make it the most useful for users.  Personally, right now, I don’t want my phone to track every single move I make.  And I certainly don’t want it feeding information to anyone out there concerning where I might be in 24 hours!  Hello, stalker-much!? 

But, let’s take a little glimpse into the possibilities.  I might be okay with this entire process if, say, my phone could tell me there is a dry cleaners for the clothes I need laundered right next to the gym I was going to go to tomorrow after work.  And, better yet, give me a 30% off coupon for said dry cleaners.  Or if, say, my phone alerted me a day ahead of time that there was going to be heavy traffic on my way to work the next day due to an Obama-visit.  It might even offer to auto-set my alarm 30 minutes earlier for me.  Why, yes, dear smartphone.  Please do. 

Since the UK study and algorithm are still in prototype phase, I don’t know if these will be the future capabilities of the data.  Unlike the smartphones, I can’t predict the future.  But I do know it would need to be extremely safe and amazingly helpful for me to use this feature.  Only time will tell.

What would you want this future-predicting smartphone to help you with?

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