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‘Friendly’ Surveillance and Intelligent Socks

September 21, 2010

I missed putting this up last week, but MIT’s Technology Review blogs had a good summary of a talk by Intel’s Justin Rattner, who was arguing for a new era of more ‘friendly’ surveillance. By this he means an emphasis on ubiquitous computing and sensing technologies, or what the Europeans call ‘ambient intelligence’, for personal and personalized assistance and support. He is quoted in the piece as saying “Future devices will constantly learn about you, your habits, how you go about your life, your friends. They’ll know where you’re going, they’ll anticipate, they’ll know your likes and dislikes.” Rattner himself was wearing some new ‘intelligent socks’ (well, sensors in his socks) during the talk, which can sense whether the wearer has fallen or experienced some other unexpected movement. Of course, the problem with this, apart from the issue of whether we want even our socks to anticipate our movements and more, is that the constant stream of data needed to inform the intelligent systems has to go somewhere, and that ‘somewhere’ is ‘the cloud’, i.e. the most intimate data about you, whatever level of security is in place, would be just out there and far more accessible than the forms of biomedical information currently held by, for example, our doctors.

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