Thanks to faster processing chips and the ability to tap into super computers in the cloud, today’s smart phones are getting smarter fast! But it’s not only because of faster chips, it’s also because of the algorithms that are being developed and applied in the background, which are essentially analyzing everything you do. To show how smart the phone can be, the University of Birmingham did an experiment whereby they used the data collected from individuals’ smart phones and those of the individuals’ friends to predict a person’s future whereabouts.
For example, suppose you and a friend get together every Thursday after work. It’s in your calendar every week. Also suppose that on Monday of this week your friend does some general searches for a different restaurant in your area. The phone puts two and two together and predicts that on Thursday you and your friend will be meeting you at the new restaurant.
Sound farfetched? It’s not. The University research found that, on average, they were able to predict within a 20 meter radius where any given person in the study would be 24 hours later. In other words, they pinpointed a person’s future location…and their accuracy was within 20 meters. Since one meter is about three feet, 20 meters is not far off.
Currently, Android’s new phone system has a predictive analysis system in place called Google Now, which aims at predicting what you’ll need and then getting it before you even know you need it, all based on your interests and habits. And it will get more accurate over time.
How is this possible? Well, we’re using our smart phones to surf and to do our Google searches. All those searches are increasingly tied to our GPS, which is our location. And the amount of time we’re using social media on our phones is increasing as well, which means even more data collection. So our smart phone knows where we are, what we’re doing, and what our interests are at all times.
When you combine all of those things, it’s easy to see that more companies will be doing predictive analysis of what individuals are going to buy, what they’re going to do, and where they’re going to be. And, of course, this will increasingly raise concerns about privacy.
But it also brings up another interesting question: Who is really deciding our actions?
Predictive analysis suggests that a smart device is using past information and current on-line behavior to determine what a future action will be. That’s fine. But maybe you weren’t going to do what the phone suggested. Maybe the phone simply made such a good prediction (suggestion) that you decided to actually do what the phone predicted you would do. In other words, maybe the phone is not predicting, but rather, determining what you’ll do through the power of intelligent suggestion.
We’ll see this area develop and this concern play out over the coming months and years. For now, take the time to think about why you do things and the actions you take. If you don’t, someone else may do the thinking for you.