Cell Phones Give Us More
Last month NYTimes columnist John Markoff wrote a great article called The Cell Phone, Navigating our Lives.
The cellphone is the world’s most ubiquitous computer. The four billion cellphones in use around the globe carry personal information, provide access to the Web and are being used more and more to navigate the real world. And as cellphones change how we live, computer scientists say, they are also changing how we think about information.
Think about that. The smartphone and especially touch phones like the iphone, storm and HTC are making it easier than ever to get information on-demand. We are consuming that information every day.
Powerful apps for these platforms don’t simply take a website and put it into an app. They provide unique value. A newer, better way to get and process information.
With the dominance of the cellphone, a new metaphor is emerging for how we organize, find and use information. New in one sense, that is. It is also as ancient as humanity itself. That metaphor is the map.
The Power of the MAP
“The map underlies man’s ability to perceive,” said Richard Saul Wurman, a graphic designer who was a pioneer in the use of maps as a generalized way to search for information of all kinds before the emergence of the online world.
Hmmm - the power of the map. Not only can you find great restaurants, the nearest gas station and how to get to the closest Starbucks, you can also stalk (errr…. track) actual people. Google Latitude is a great example - you can find out where you friends are (like BriteKite, which never really caught on). The power of the map and of location is HUGE, and we are only just beginning to see apps that really take advantage of this data.
There is even a company involved in making money off of tracking you, Sense Networks, a New York City firm that mines the millions of digital trails left by cellphone users for marketing purposes. This is both very cool and very scary at the same time (data privacy anyone?).
Why are maps and location such a powerful concept? They unite the “real world” with the cell phone world. Marketers and app programmers now know where you are in the real world and can use this information to provide services and incentives for behaviour.
Think of the power. Seriously. Marketers or Google or whoever will know that you have been to 5 car lots and are thinking of buying a car. They know that you go to Starbucks every morning but are sometimes open to Duinkin’ Donuts. They know that you spend 45 minutes in the pet store each week (you must really love your dog).
For a generation of older Americans, exposing their precise location around the clock to an army of little brothers for marketing and advertising purposes is a privacy invasion.
But Just How Big Will Maps Get?
- About 10 percent of cellphone users take advantage of map features, according to the market research firm M:Metrics.
- 24 percent of those interviewed wanted GPS mapping capabilities on their next phone (according to LJS)
- Only 19 percent wanted an Internet connection (According to LJS)
We are still only beginning to realize how the power of smart phones will change our lives. What do you think? Are cell phone maps the game-changer for how we live our lives? Is providing our location a violation of privacy?