Tech Trends: My Predictions for 2015

Webbmedia Group recently released their 2015 trend report for disruptive technologies that will affect us in the coming year. I sometimes wish we could take a year off from new trends, but at the same time I am excited about some technologies that are taking shape and their potential impact on our lives. In this blog post I will cover just a few technology trends that I believe will soon go mainstream.

Smart Virtual Personal Assistants

Predictive technology will continue to make its way into our lives. Google, Apple, Yahoo, and other tech companies have or will be integrating predictive technologies into their products. This technology uses natural language input and processing and attempts to anticipate our next thought or move. As an example, Emu, which was acquired by Google last year, monitors text conversations and will suggest nearby movie theaters and movies based on your geolocation and recent movie views, all based on your text conversation. Another application of predictive technology is Amazon Echo, which is a new, voice-activated, cloud-connected wireless speaker that acts as a personal assistant. Alexa is the voice behind Echo; you can ask her questions, tell her to play music, have her set alarms or appointment reminders, and more. Think Siri for the home. Echo is currently available for purchase by invitation only, but will most likely be widely sold in 2015.

Privacy

With ongoing privacy concerns, look for new applications and devices that seek to protect users from hackers and government prying. Expect an increase in ultra-private phones and watch for new methods of authentication, such as private key technology, which was previously used primarily in corporate networks.

Ephemerality

Applications like Snapchat have become popular mainly due to their ephemeral nature. Your post or message is guaranteed to disappear after a period of time. Look for the same technology to appear in other sites, such as Facebook. We will soon have the ability to predetermine a lifespan for files and posts.

Heads Up Displays

Things may be quiet on the Glass front right now, but companies such as Innovega are refining their iOptik technology into sleek glasses and even into contact lenses. Cyborgs cannot be far behind. Also look for more heads up displays in automobiles that show speed or other driving parameters.

Proximity Sensing

With advanced beacon sensing, proximity sensing will become more ubiquitous. This technology allows a business or individual to broadcast messages to you when you are within range. This is a good thing when trying to find your ride after the big NFL game, but may be intrusive when walking through a large metropolitan area and being bombarded by advertisements. It will be interesting to observe the tradeoff people make between privacy, as mentioned above, and convenience.

Thoughts

There are exciting new technologies coming on the market, many of which will help make life better. Some will become intrusive, however. As I watch the evolution of technology solutions, I am always interested in that intersection. Will we be mindful enough to preserve our privacy while enjoying the convenience of predictive or assistive technology? Let me know your thoughts, and let me know what you are looking forward to next year.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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The Gift of Creativity: The Advent of 3D Printing

Boy intently watches 3D printerI have been reading a lot lately about 3D printers and scanners. The price of these printers is approaching consumer level, albeit the wealthy consumer level. Some of the initial hurdles have been eliminated, such as lack of raw materials and poor printing quality. With the maker movement, there is a push to make this technology available to more people so they can print their own designs and inventions. I believe the 3D printer has the potential to unleash creativity and create breakthrough items.

3D Printers

3D printers use raw materials such as plastic filament, metal powder, or carbon fiber to transform digital designs into solid, workable products. Makerbot, a manufacturer of 3D printers, scanners, and supplies makes a model that costs as little as $1,300. The same company also maintains the website Thingiverse, which is a repository for shared digital designs that can be used with 3D printers. There are designs for jewelry, household items, and tools like wrenches, knives, or scissors. You can share your designs, or borrow designs for use with your own 3D printer.

Innovative Ideas

3D printing is opening up a whole new world of possibilities and an alternative to mass produced items. Mike Toutonghi, a Seattle area technology manager, developed a conductive material to be used in a 3D printer after trying to help his son create an electromechanical rocket for a science project. He now has a Kickstarter campaign to create a company to further develop this material, which makes it possible for anyone to create their own solderless circuit board. I am already thinking about the possibilities.

Hershey announced a partnership with ChefJet earlier this year to print 3D chocolate. NASA is testing methods for printing food in a zero-gravity environment. If soon we can print chocolate and pizza, what other foods can we create?

Medical research companies such as Organovo are developing methods for printing human tissue in a process they call 3D bioprinting. While this raises ethical concerns—for example, imagine if people start printing their own six million dollar man—it also creates incredible opportunities. Someday we could conceivably print whole organs and not have to rely on donations to replace failing systems.

Education could be revolutionized by the technology. I saw a working 3D printer two years ago in a high school science classroom. Teachers can use them to demonstrate concepts for the visual and tactile learner, and students can use them to develop, draw, and print a model or concept. Students could gain skills in product development, design, and manufacturing all at the same time.

Thoughts

I am excited about 3D printing and the possibilities it represents. The price is dropping to the point where I could justify adding this tool to my home office. I would love to be able to print a new gear for my bicycle, or replicate that dish I broke last week, or work on a new circuit board for an invention that will change the world.

What would you create with your own 3D printer? Perhaps 2015 is the year we get one and find out for ourselves.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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How My Graduate Education Opened Unexpected Doors For Me

2010 AIM Program graduatesI have been pondering how a graduate education has helped me in my life and career. The catalyst was an article I read recently titled “In Defense of the Master’s Degree.” To be fair, the article was written by the chief strategy officer at Northeastern University, so it may have been a bit biased. His thoughts, however, echo my own experience and the benefits I have enjoyed since completing my master’s degree.

Background

As the article points out, up until recently the master’s degree was primarily a stepping stone to a PhD, though it sometimes became a final stopping place for those who did not make it to the finish. In the 1970s the trend shifted towards specialized graduate degrees in business, science, engineering, and computer science. The master’s degree became not a step to the PhD, but a destination in and of itself. At the same time, the number of advanced degrees in liberal arts has trended down.

Is it worth it?

With rising student debt and a proliferation of professional certificate programs, some are asking whether a graduate degree is still valuable. It is obviously important in medicine and law and in sciences such as chemistry, but is it important in computer science or information systems or business? Are employers looking for evidence of hands-on experience via certifications, or are they looking for evidence of the reasoning skills, critical thinking, and specialized knowledge that can only be developed through graduate-level study?  I believe that the answer is both.

Benefits

Beyond the obvious advantages of education and knowledge, there are benefits I did not expect:

-       The opportunity to do focused research. I was able to dive into the area of using computer simulation to solve business problems. This helped me to focus my interests and had real-world applications for my employer.

-       Increased confidence. Not only was I able to apply for positions that required an advanced degree, but I was confident that I could compete for and excel in these jobs.

-       Increased networking opportunities. A graduate cohort is generally small enough to give you the opportunity to engage the fellow students, and the faculty, both personally and professionally. This expanded network has helped me immensely in my career.

-       Becoming qualified to teach. When I pursued my master’s degree, it was strictly for the increased knowledge and professional opportunities. To my surprise it also opened doors for me in the academic world. This was unexpected and has been a great source of personal growth for me.

Thoughts

When weighing the costs and benefits of an advanced degree, I encourage you to look not only at the extrinsic values of professional advancement but also at the intrinsic value of increased knowledge, confidence, and peripheral opportunities. My degree has opened doors for me and allowed me to network with talented individuals who took me to places that I never would have considered.

If you have an advanced degree or if you are contemplating starting one, I would love to hear from you. Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Internet of Things: How Will They Communicate?

Smart home concept sketchI have talked before about the coming Internet of Things and the changes it will bring. The Internet of Things or IoT is a term coined by Cisco to describe the interconnected nature of devices that are linked to each other and to the Internet or an intranet. Imagine a future where your car communicates with your refrigerator and your oven and your home heating, security, and entertainment systems. On your way home from work your car automatically detects your intended destination and communicates with your refrigerator to release your dinner to the oven. By the time you arrive home the lights are on, your security system has unlocked the door, and dinner is on the table, with soft music playing to soothe you after your hectic day. This is all well and good but it will require a lot of work in the background to embed all of these things with devices and to build the infrastructure to be able to connect everything. This is no trivial task and provides opportunities for both entrepreneurial and tech minds.

IPv4 vs. IPv6

If you think about how many items are produced every day worldwide and then consider that if even a small portion of those items are connected to the Internet you realize that adds up to a lot of unique Internet identifiers or addresses. In the early days of the Internet, a system was developed which provided for unique Internet protocol or IP addresses for every computer. Currently, version 4 or IPv4 allows for a maximum of 232 or 2.4 trillion addresses. IANA, the world body assigned to distribute those addresses, reported that the last block had been given out in February 2011 and the remaining addresses are now in the hands of five regional distributors.

Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) allows for a maximum of 2128 unique addresses. In theory, it should be enough to cover all computers, tablets, smart devices, and “things” for the foreseeable future. Even though IPv6 was introduced in 1995, it is not yet widely used because of the complexity of conversion and the manpower needed for the task. This provides a huge opportunity for  individuals who understand the conversion process and implementation procedures of the new addressing scheme. However, much work needs to be done, and it is not just a matter of flipping a switch.

Embedded devices

There are ample opportunities for entrepreneurs who can not only come up with a way to embed devices in everyday things but also those who can develop the interconnection between devices and who can do a deep dive in to the data to create meaning. There are three important steps that need to take place to make the Internet of Things a reality:

  1. Devices need to collect various data points such as a manufacturing process or a patient status or the geospatial position of a package.
  2. Those data points need to be collected, probably in the cloud, and/or shared with other devices, smart or otherwise.
  3. The collected data needs to be analyzed to affect improvements to the whole cycle. Without this deep analysis, the data will be useless to decision makers.

In all three of these areas, I see opportunities for enterprising minds that already have these skills or are willing to develop them to be out in front of the Internet of Things.

Thoughts

Do you have ideas for everyday things that you wish could communicate, such as your car keys when they are lost, or your car in the mall parking lot during the Christmas shopping season? Some of these are already becoming a reality. It’s your turn to develop the next connected device or help develop the back end infrastructure that will collect and process all of the new data points to improve our work and our lives.

About Kelly BrownAuthor Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program . He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Planting Seeds and Encouraging Growth

cross section of pepperLast night I was cutting up the last of our pepper harvest in preparation for freezing. As I was cutting them, I marveled at the number of seeds that are in each pepper. Each of these seeds represents a potential pepper plant, which could then produce multiple peppers, each containing a large seed pod. If even only a portion of those seeds were to germinate and bear fruit, the increase in peppers would be enormous. Perhaps it was the capsaicin fumes coming off of the peppers, but I turned my thoughts to the figurative seeds that we plant and nourish when we help and teach and encourage others.

I have written about this in previous blog posts in terms of leaving a legacy, but I want to focus specifically on the act of planting seeds. I want to share a story of people who planted seeds that allowed me to grow and give an example of how I try to plant seeds for others. I hope you will in turn share with me your stories of those who helped you and how you help others.

An Act of Kindness

My first paying job was delivering newspapers when I was eleven. It was my job to deliver the daily newspaper and to collect subscription money at the end of the month. There were some customers who did their best to dodge my collection attempts and others who were very gracious. One older couple went out of their way to invite me into their home and always fed me toast and jam on cold Saturday mornings. As I reflect on their kindness, I realize they were planting seeds that would help me in my life. I learned the value of doing a good job to earn that kindness, and I have also come to realize that I can extend that same kindness to others. Their seeds continue to flourish in me and are extended to those I interact with.

Planting Seeds for Others

I do a lot of volunteer work with a youth group and a few years ago I volunteered to run a leadership course for young men and women. The instructors were primarily older youth so although my main task was organizing the course, I also taught the instructors how to teach and to connect with others. In other words, I was planting the seeds of teaching skills with the instructors who, in turn, were planting the seeds of leadership with the participants. I got to see immediate benefits with my staff, and hopefully we planted the seeds of leadership skills with the participants. I have worked with some of those youth since that time and, whether they realize it or not, they are using the skills they learned.

I planted seeds, and then my staff planted seeds, and now it is time for the students to plant seeds. I have no idea how far our influence will spread, but healthy seeds can be carried and take root, sometimes in unlikely places.

Thoughts

At times it feels like everyone these days is isolated in their own world, but I see examples of people reaching out to others and planting seeds that will be harvested, probably for generations to come. Some seeds don’t thrive and bear fruit right away, maybe not even in our lifetime, but be assured that our deeds will bear fruit, for better or for worse. I hope you will choose today to plant seeds that will carry benefits for a long time to come. Let me know about the seeds that you plant.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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The Drone Controversy: Do Personal Drones Compromise Privacy?

I was recently asked to research personal drones. While I have been watching the development of drones for some time, I didn’t know much about the details, so this is a perfect opportunity to learn.

Definition

The term drone originally referred to the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or unmanned aerial system (UAS) used by militaries to navigate war zones. Some of these were and are used for surveillance and some even carry weapons. This term often conjures up safety or privacy concerns. Personal drones, in contrast, are remote controlled vehicles typically priced under $1,000 that are small enough to be carried by one person. Personal drones often carry GoPro style cameras, but no weapons. They are commonly used for recreational filming or in industries such as farming or mining to view terrain or crops.  Unlike satellite images, drones can provide video as opposed to still images, and they can deliver those images on a cloudy day.

Availability

A new personal drone is the Iris+ by 3D Robotics, which is a quadcopter available from Amazon for $750, base price. This drone weighs 8.2 pounds and comes with a mount for a GoPro camera. Paired with a GPS enabled Android device, you can set it to provide third person viewing. Synch it with your smartphone or wearable and it will follow you on your adventure, creating the ultimate selfie. Skydiving, surfing or skiing can now be filmed as if you had your own videographer. Paired with a tablet, you can draw the flight path that you want it to take and it becomes completely autonomous. This unit has a flight time of 16-22 minutes on one battery charge.

Another popular personal drone is the DJI Phantom 2 Quadcopter. This has a flight time of 25-28 minutes and comes with a mount for a GoPro 3 camera. You can program a flight path for this device by pairing it with an iPad. This unit weighs in at 9 pounds and sells for a base price of $829.

There are also kits available for hobbyists who want to build their own drones or micro drones that fit in the palm of a hand. Personal drones are becoming more popular and more available, but are they legal?

Legality

Are personal drones legal to fly? It depends. If you live in Washington D.C., the answer is no. According to an article earlier this year in Time magazine, there is a Flight Restricted Zone for ten nautical miles surrounding Reagan International Airport. This includes even small personal drones. Yosemite National Park in California and Zion National Park in Utah have similar bans, according to the article. Outside of those areas it is legal to fly a drone, based on FAA policy, if it remains under 400 feet. If you are within three miles of an airport you must notify the tower that you will be flying your drone. There is no cohesive policy yet from the FAA, so I expect that there will be a patchwork of policies that will be put in place until an umbrella policy is enacted. In other words, we are still in the wild, wild west on this one.

Privacy

Legality is one thing, but privacy is a completely different issue. As a society, we are still struggling with issues of privacy concerning Google Earth from satellites or Google street view from roving cars. Google does a reasonable job of filtering out faces and license plates, but there have been lawsuits by people who claim they are recognizable in the images, thus breaching their privacy. Personal drones can go where satellite and car cameras cannot, so we are going to have to collectively deal with how we respect each other’s privacy now that we can fly a camera into someone’s backyard.  What are proper boundaries we can agree on? What actions need to fall under a policy or law?

Thoughts

I think this is a case where new technology has gotten out in front of policy. How we use this technology will determine how laws are shaped. Personal drones have many applications, from entertainment to farming to mining to disaster relief. I can see a personal drone or drones being used to survey damage from a natural or manmade disaster.  They could help aid organizations quickly develop relief plans and possibly even save lives.

There are a lot of positive applications for drones if only we are careful about how we use them and how we respect others’ rights. The future use or restriction of this technology is up to us. Let me know how you feel about the use of personal drones.  Are you excited or apprehensive? Do you think they represent an opportunity or a threat? Let me know.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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The Power of Data

My last blog post was on the power of information. This week I take a different twist and talk about the power of data. Some would argue they are the same thing, but I believe they are two sides of the same coin. I could write an entire blog post on the difference, but I will save that for another time. Two things prompted me to write about this topic: a TED Talk by Susan Etlinger about critical thinking when dealing with data, and my recent attendance at the ARMA International conference of records managers in San Diego.

Critical Thinking

In Susan Etlinger’s talk, she stresses the need to apply critical thinking to the ever-growing stream of data we face. Unfortunately, computers cannot yet generate the thinking and cognitive processing necessary to extract nuggets of information and wisdom from raw data. Computers can only apply patterns that we introduce to them; the real job of providing context and meaning to data still comes from us. Having the smartest person interpret facts and figures in a meaningful way and in a way that will yield innovative business approaches is what provides competitive advantages for a company. We are at a point where most businesses have access to the same computing capacity and the same data coming from the same cloud, but the differentiator is increasingly the thinking human being at the end of the process.

All That Data

I was fortunate to attend the ARMA conference in San Diego last week—a gathering of records managers and information professionals. As I listened to the presentations and met with professionals, I was struck by the incredible amount of data that they are tasked with managing. Some of that data is in the form of old paper records that are being converted to digital content and indexed so it can be mined and searched. Some records are already digital but are held in many different repositories and cannot be searched across platforms and databases. For these professionals, job one is to collect everything in one place. Job two is to create meaning and context by intelligent queries. The data and the facts are present, but they cannot be converted into innovative answers until someone asks the right question. I was impressed by the practitioners I met that work in fields such as medical care, law enforcement, higher education, and government. They truly understand the monumental task ahead of them but also understand that they can make a personal difference at the end of the day.

Thoughts

I just finished teaching a course in information systems and management for the AIM Program. Whenever I teach, I understand that I can either present just the facts or I can help build context and meaning around those facts. I want my students to wake up in the middle of the night with an idea that they developed by analyzing the facts but also by applying critical thinking and asking the hard questions. I want them to synthesize the data from many sources until they arrive at that “aha” moment that leads to a breakthrough. This is what great research is all about and this is what great learning is all about. If I can help inspire those new and exciting combinations of data and ideas, then I have truly been successful.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Hand on digital matrix

The Power of Information: Finding Relevancy in an Information Avalanche

Hand on digital matrix

I have written before about the power of information, but I am continually reminded of it as I watch world events unfold. We recently posted an article to Facebook contrasting soft power, meaning the power to change a position with information, and hard power, which uses guns as the means of persuasion. Using information as a soft power often results in a more permanent solution to the immediate problem. Using violence, or hard power, often begets violence and escalates conflict. With that in mind, I want to discuss a few examples where information truly is power.

The New Digital Age

In the 2013 book The New Digital Age, authors Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and Google executive Jared Cohen talk about a future where information will be used by peacemakers and terrorists alike. “The power of information is underrated,” says Schmidt. Their premise is that the use and dissemination of information (or disinformation) will be one of the new war fronts and the side that can deliver trusted information about situation will have the upper hand. Political regimes have physical power, but it is possible to overcome that with timely and persuasive information. Schmidt warns that there is a dangerous gap between the technical world and the geopolitical world. I believe that the gap is closing with the help of information and the Internet, even in countries that traditionally suppress technology and free speech. Information is political power.

Health Information

We have more health information than ever before. We have the opportunity to learn about our personal genetic makeup and understand our health risks before they become problems. We have unprecedented access to nutritional information that could help us to live healthier and longer lives. It is remarkable to me to think of the progress that we have made in combating diseases over the last 100 years, due in part to the timely information available to us all. Even new viruses are quickly isolated and contained, partly by sharing information. We have become empowered to be responsible for our own health and not rely solely on the medical community. Information is personal power.

Thoughts

Information is power. Our world of understanding has expanded since Gutenberg created the printing press in the 1400s and ushered in a new age of literacy and information sharing. Sometimes it feels like we have access to too much information, but if we can learn to glean the relevant and the useful points, it can help us personally and as world citizens. Have you been able to use information to make your life better or to help others? Let me know.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and professor of practice for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Technology In Action—How Professional Sports Are Benefitting

I am always interested in where technology is making a difference in our jobs and in our lives. Lately my thoughts have turned to how technology has changed professional sports. In the U.S., we are heavy into football season and just winding down with baseball. Major league soccer and basketball will start within the next couple of months.

There have been many innovations in how sports are played, watched and officiated, some welcomed and some controversial. Some feel that innovations like instant replay slow down play on the field or court, but others tout the additional fairness and accuracy of officiating. Whatever your position, I think that technology in sports is here to stay and will increase in the future.

That Yellow Line

This is what originally caused me to ponder technology in sports. The trademarked “First and Ten Line” system by SportVision, launched in 1998, displayed a virtual line on a professional football broadcast to indicate the location of a first down. Over the years, other colored lines have been added to represent other things, such as the line of scrimmage. I turned to the very cool website HowStuffWorks.com to find out how it really works. It turns out that it takes four people, six computers, and a tractor trailer full of gear to paint one virtual line. They have to consider the position of all of the on-field cameras and track the movement (pan, zoom, fade) of each so that the line is in synch with the broadcast. The camera view can change at any moment and the virtual line needs to also change.  The size of the field and the slight curvature of the field (for rainwater run off) are factored in and the on-screen color pallet must be constantly recalculated so it is not painted over the top of a player or official and to adjust for changing weather and light conditions, like snow or darkness. These are very sophisticated algorithms that should make any technologist proud.

Hawk-Eye

Hawk-Eye is a ball tracking system first created by engineers in the UK in 2001 and used originally for cricket. It spread to tennis and European football and was used recently at Wimbledon to aid line judges in making calls. This product is mainly used in officiating but can also aid commentating and coaching. It employs sophisticated monitoring to track ball trajectory, impact, and landing.

Keeping Players Healthy

Technology in sports is increasingly being used to keep players healthy. Professional football and basketball teams, including the Dallas Cowboys and Mavericks, are using microchips worn under the jersey during practice to understand and limit injuries to muscles, ligaments, and tendons. They also help to refine performance by emitting real-time data on accelerations, decelerations, changes of direction, and jumping. This information can help a player understand whether they are favoring one side or the other and can be used to monitor a player in rehabilitation. Using GPS and accelerometers, teams can protect their players as well as seek a competitive edge through data collection and analysis.

Thoughts

These are just some of the ways that technology is being used in sports to enhance performance and entertainment. Many other professional and amateur athletes are using existing technology to track their personal statistics in the hope that the data will yield insights that will help them become the next champion.

Do you personally benefit from technology and data collection? How has it helped enhance your experience of participating in or watching sports? Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and professor of practice for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Pervasive Computing: Lifelogging and the Quantifiable Self

We recently shared an article on our Facebook page about a new mobile app developed to analyze and detect whether a person is stressed or even depressed. This app falls under the category of “lifelogging,” which is tracking personal activity data like exercising, sleeping, and eating. Going one step further, if you take the raw data and try to draw correlations to help you improve your life, you are entering into an area called “quantified self.” Personally, I like my life fairly unquantified, even though I am always trying to improve.

The app to detect depression was developed by a group of Dartmouth researchers, and their findings were presented at the ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing, held last month in Seattle. This is a fairly new area and one that interests me, so I went through the proceedings to see what I could learn. I think that some such apps and devices could be helpful to those willing to use the data they collect to work towards a goal, but other people might go overboard in data collection, with no plan to act on what they learn. Some of them are technologies to deal with other technologies that are already deployed.

Ongoing Research

Also at the recent ACM conference, there was a presentation titled “Promoting Interpersonal Hand-to-Hand Touch for Vibrant Workplace with Electrodermal Sensor Watch.” This uses a simple wrist-mounted thermal detection device to record high-fives and rewards the user with points for multiple touch encounters.  It is designed to encourage more touch in the workplace, which the researchers equate with higher employee satisfaction. Basically, this is the gamification of personal touch.

There was also research on methods for detecting public restrooms to automatically turn off the data-logging feature for devices such as Google Glass and other video logging systems. Apparently there are some areas of lifelogging that are still socially taboo.

Other research focused on Internet-connected, video logging home security systems and how receptive parents and teens are to them. Not surprisingly, the study found that parents liked the ability to remotely monitor their homes, while teens felt that it was an invasion of privacy for a parent to remotely monitor their movements.

We have the technology to perform pervasive computing, but I think that we will continue to struggle with the appropriateness of lifelogging, particularly when it involves others. There are issues of privacy and issues of personal space and freedom that we need to deal with as this technology becomes more prevalent.

 Thoughts

Socrates is reported to have said, “A life unexamined is not worth living.” I wonder, what is the value of a life TOO examined? It appears that technology is making that possible. Are we losing the mystery and surprise in life? Are we losing some of the spontaneity that makes life interesting when we plot and calculate and manage every twist and turn? The technology makes a hyper-examined life possible but the choice is still ours as to how or if we want to use it.

Have you used a lifelogging application or device? Did it help you, or was it more noise than value? Were you able to change your habits or behavior because of it?  Let me know. I would love to hear about your experiences.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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