Two stories reported on TechCrunch today caught my attention as two technologies that I’ve wanted to see for years, and also two areas that, when combined, might make for a major shift in how we use technology. Between Microsoft’s Ray Ozzie talking about device mesh and Yahoo! announcing Fire Eagle which deals with location (and better be paying Ze Frank for the name), there are some interesting possible applications that might prove useful to you and me. Realizing that the people in my crowd that come here to understand how to use social media and stuff might be wondering if they landed on the wrong page. Believe me, this applies.
Device Mesh and Context
If/when our technology can understand that we’re using our BlackBerry now, and oh wait, we’re at the laptop, and hey, I’d rather get IMs from this person, but drop this other person’s stuff in email, that’s when things start to get cool. When I can get podcasts onto my iPod or whatever (if we’re talking about Ray Ozzie, let’s say a Zune) without thinking much about it, and/or without having to tether to my laptop, life will get a lot cooler. Going a little further into this notion, when I can shift media between multiple devices and shift preferences and bring my identity and context between multiple devices (maybe even if it’s my own personal cookie), then that’s going to really be cool for what we’re talking about with social media and impact. Are you with me?
Location and Fire Eagle
After reading about six blog posts, I still can’t tell you much about what it really is going to do, but here’s what I want it to do. I want us all to have the ability to opt in and out of defining our physical proximity, and then I want that platform to be open such that smarter people than me can write apps that will facilitate real space experiences that might mirror our extended, augmented online experience.
There are two ways to use this (well, there are millions, but let’s talk about two) that would be immediately fun and useful. When I’m at an event, I want to loudly promote that I’m there, so that people who matter to me will connect with me there. I think Fire Eagle facilitates this. Second, when I’m at a place, like a restaurant, or an airport, or a park, I want there to be “invisible tagging” that tells me lots of locative data and contextual overlay (yes, I admit that I am a big William Gibson SPOOK COUNTRY fan in this regards).
Mash The Two Together
Take device context (moving the “me” in my things from one device to another) and mix it with location context (tell certain apps about where I am and give me value from this), and I feel like I’m finally getting augmented reality. Smatter some 2d barcodes, some visual overlay stuff like Paul Ottelini from Intel was showing off at CES this past January, and we’re getting towards something insanely usable.
The business applications of device context mashed with location context are numerous. Commerce implications are the obvious ones, but go beyond that and you can see educational value, communications innovation, journalism toolsets, and plenty more.
And if you throw in autonomous applications like traffic sensors, and sensor networks sharing info with Fire Eagle, and porting what’s useful to my devices based on the context I’ve configured, then it gets crazy.
Microsoft has built some products that sync home to portable to the car. Yahoo has some complementary products and technologies, as well as more web DNA than MSFT (don’t fight me on this, softies). For this reason, among the others that others have cited, I really hope there’s a potential win here with the potential Microsoft / Yahoo merger.
What do you think? Does this make any sense to you? Do you see any of it? What does a world where your devices know it’s you and know your preferences, and where your location can be opted-in for all kinds of other functions feel like to you? Scary? Big Brother? Or an opportunity? I’d love your ideas.
Photo credit, Annie Mole
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