I call what’s going on among smartphone users worldwide the proximity effect. Slowly, surely, step-by-step, we users of modern mobile devices are creating vast fields of raw data which is being harvested– by the scrupulous and unscrupulous– for our benefit, or to be used against us. Here are a couple of examples of the former.
The Weather Outside
One of may favorite iPhone apps is Dark Sky which uses a unique blend of weather data and local information to provide users with weather alerts. But not the beep-beep-beep of an impending thunderstorm.
No, Dark Sky does a mashup of current local conditions with weather radar and weather service data to provide remarkably accurate predictions of the weather near you at the moment and for hours to come, always changing to match current conditions.
Here’s an example.
Dark Sky’s magic comes about because your location is blended with current weather conditions, and weather data. It even uses the barometric pressure sensor in the new iPhones to improve forecasting down to the minute. For locales where I’ve used it, Dark Sky can be remarkably accurate with simple alerts that say something like, ‘Drizzle starting in your area in five minutes.” Five minutes later, drizzle. As more people use Dark Sky it becomes more accurate.
The proximity effect has other uses and we seem them in Google Maps and Apple Maps for traffic conditions, one of my favorite topics of anger here in San Francisco. With hundreds of thousands of iPhone and Android smartphone users in a given metropolitan area think of how much traffic data both companies gather. They know where you’re driving, and the data gathered from others only improves the traffic condition reports on both platforms.
The more people use each device, the more traffic condition data is gathered, the more we know about which direction to use to reach a destination. From what I can tell in the Bay area, that information is updated in minutes.
Watch Where You Walk
Now, think about the data being gathered from each of your mobile devices; smartphone, smartwatch. Managed appropriately, HomeKit and Apple TV can learn where you are; on the way home? Or, leaving for work? And, make adjustments in the home as needed; reducing heat, limiting air conditioning, and much more.
Your proximity has other benefits, and we’re only beginning to see and explore their uses. Sure, you can pay for something using your iPhone and Apple Pay, but in two years the locations where your proximity starts the payment process will be innumerable. Add Watch to the mix and watch what happens as it captures your heart rate throughout the day. Had a bad day driving? Watch knows. How long will it be before our devices begin listening to our voices, determining our moods, and responding in ways we never thought of in the past.
We’re not that far away, folks. The proximity effect of our mobile devices and an internet that is always on an embedded in many home devices has already begun. Cool and scary at the same time.