In the future, your toothbrush might tell on you to your dentist if you’re not brushing often enough, your car will have a record of where you’ve driven it, and your bathroom mirror will double as a touch-screen computer. At least that’s what author Robert Scoble lays out in his new book co-authored with Shel Israel - The Age of Context: Mobile, Sensors, Data, and the Future of Privacy.
It’s a book that is eight years in the making and serves as a sequel to Naked Conversations, also co-authored with Israel. That book endorsed the adoption of social media by businesses and the new book labels social media as one of five converging forces that are changing how we work and live. The other four forces will be familiar to readers of ITBusiness.ca: mobile, data, sensors, and location-based technology. Scoble will be in Toronto Feb. 26 to discuss the themes of his new book in an event hosted by ITBusiness.ca community blogger Michael Cayley. (Tip: Register with the code “43North” to receive 75 per cent off the cost.)
Scoble is also the startup liaison for Rackspace and project leader at Building 43, a community for Internet enthusiasts. He’s a well-recognized technology journalist and has built up a large following on social networks. ITBusiness.ca had an opportunity to pick Scoble’s brain ahead of his talk in Toronto and took the opportunity to do so with an e-mail exchange:
Brian Jackson: We’ve all heard the success stories around businesses using social media, but the fact is there are some that just face a stream of pure vitriol for everything they post. It’s particularly a problem I’ve noticed for telcos in Canada. What’s the answer for a company that’s trying to do something positive on social media and just facing an extremely negative reaction that’s not directly connected to their content?
Robert Scoble: Deal with it head on. I don’t know why companies don’t get this. Obviously you have some kind of goal for hiring social media people. Probably stuff like improve net promoter scores or increase sales or decrease churn. If those are your goals then this is an opportunity to explain the company’s point of view and why you have policies people don’t like. Or, even better, view this as an opportunity to change the market by getting rid of things that make people mad. If you don’t care, then why are you doing social media in the first place?
BJ: I know you’re a prominent Google+ user. I recently interviewed Guy Kawasaki, an evangelist of the platform who describes it as a place for people to discuss their passions. Do you agree with that assessment of it? What is it you like about Google+?
RS: I sort of disagree. Facebook has now matched a lot of the features of Google+. For instance, Facebook has lists and groups now where you can talk about your passions. Google+ has a few real advantages. 1. Posting stuff there scores higher for the search engine, so if you care about being found I’d post there. 2. Google+ is tightly integrated with YouTube now, so if you are posting video, I would consider posting on Google+. 3. Google+ has Hangouts, which let you video with groups of people. Very useful.
BJ: You talk about the age of smart technology and the coming revolution of contextual relevance delivered through sensors and the Internet of Things. To some degree isn’t this a hyperbolic vision of some mythical utopian future that will not exist for most people? These services are more costly than the average person can afford. It’s more likely these smart technologies will find niche uses for industry, professional athletes, and the rich. Am I wrong? Why?
RS: Most of what we discuss in the book will happen for everyone thanks to the mobile phone revolution. Companies like Tapingo already are bringing contextual services to consumers and Google Now works on most of the smartphones people use today. Plus, costs of in-car tech are coming down rapidly. If you take a 10 year timeframe you’ll see this stuff all over the place. The Nest thermostat saves me money every month on my heating bill, so assuming that poor people can’t afford that is totally false. But you MUST look at cost curves. Last year a 3D sensor cost $100. This year it costs $20. So, as costs on sensors and in-home devices comes down more and more will get them.