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The digital world and the future of privacy - are you in or out?

Technologies beacons and sensors
Technologies beacons and sensors

The mobile industry, along with sensors, transmission capabilities, and Big Data and analytics models are driving many innovations in vast areas of our lives, creating a digital divide: is it good for us, or not? Join them, or stay out?

There is no doubt that the age of context and the world of targeted and personalized marketing have arrived.

Robert Scoble, a technical evangelist and writer, spoke at the NoPanels Summer 2014 event this week, and outlined key principals from his last book the 'Age of Context'. Today, consumers and users can be tracked on many activities, from buying patterns, travel destinations, GPS location searches, entertainment interests, sports or fitness activities, and even health conditions. As a result, products and services can be highly personalized and people needs could be predicted and delivered fast. Then, apps could offer convenience, improve life quality, and enhance experiences through newly created personally-tailored and relevant approaches.

But users may feel that their privacy is comprised. Scoble called this new era ‘a storm’, and as with any storm, we cannot stop it. This transformation has raised privacy concerns and has created the digital divide: people are either freaked out of this future, or embrace it. However, others, like Robert Scoble, come to terms with technological revolution, and weigh the benefits and convenience versus the ‘give aways’ in personal privacy.

Scoble talked about PinPoint Marketing. In the contextual world, businesses will have deep insights into the customer. He predicted that PinPoint Marketing practices will grow from 2% to 75%.

There will be a significant impact on commerce and businesses. For example, products and services could be promoted 'at the door’ via digital delivery of special personalized time-limited deals (in realtime, on-location, users will get text-messages to their smartphones), extra loyalty points, or offers of coupons for the next purchase. In this future, retailers and businesses benefit, having sales growth and increased opportunities of active engagement with their customers and brad-loyal shoppers. Building strong relationships with customers are key in today’s social media world, where ‘likes’ and endorsements can be viral. Consumers will also benefit greatly - they’ll be able to save money or would be delighted for having great deals.

But Pinpoint Marketing goes beyond entertainment and commerce; in fact, it will penetrate almost every field. In the healthcare domain, there are many positive implications. With mobile and cloud technologies, the communication between patient and doctor, and patient and the medical team, would improve. Today we have apps to engage everyone and the technology platforms to provide a feedback loop, improve patients’ follow up care, and also advance managed care, which all lead to better, more accurate and personalized care.

Wearable technologies are also part of handling and maintaining our health. Wearable devices, such as wrist activity bands, have provided our society with various ways to track fitness levels and activities, set goals, count calories, lose weight, and motivate individuals to lead healthier life styles. Wearable healthcare also encompasses the iPill - a disposable, nano ‘computer’ device with a wireless transmitter and a series of sensors to effectively dispense a drug in programmed doses exactly where they’re needed in the patient’s body.

The inexpensive Bluetooth Smart Beacons revolutionize not just healthcare but have a potential to impact every walk of life. These beacons 'spray' signals every few seconds and can ping other bluetooth-activated devices up to a 100 meters (approximately 328 feet) away. They last on average 2 years, but can have a larger battery and 'live' longer. For example, parents can install the beacon and track where their kids are, at any time. The Beacon will automatically ping the child's smartphone and let the parent know. This technology has broader implications than exercising parental guide (or, as teens may feel, a spying feature), since it promotes a sense of security and increases safety for both parent and child.

The mobile operating systems Apple Io7 and Android already have the beacons. Similarly, any bluetooth activated device can be pinged. Several of retailers have been installing beacon technology, enabling to ping customers’ smart-phones as soon as they walk inside the store or stroll around the mall in about 100 meters proximity of the store.

These Beacons are also favored by sports stadiums and event centers. For example, as you enter the stadium, the system can welcome you and guide you to your seat. This reduces the number of needed ushers or attendants. Tesla uses a pinging technology (an application programming interface (API)) to communicate the car's battery charging levels and automatically text the driver, noting the charging status. Similarly, the beacons can alert of an imminent need to charge ‘juice’.

Another example from the automotive industry is sensing the presence of your vehicle travelers. Cars can tell if your children are in the car, your spouse (oh no - a lover?), or your boss!

Some Beacons can track more than human presence, but even gender, passengers’ mood, etc. SRI has a technology that can sense mood and can alert of certain conditions in mental health. For example, detecting a creeping-in depression (through unusual sleep patterns, eating disturbances (over or under than the usual), newly developed isolation tendencies, other) before it progresses to a full-blown state. Cancer may be detected before the patient is alarmed. An up-coming diabetic crisis can noted, etc. Bandaids or tattoos can also transmit information about physical, mental and emotional health.

Silicon Valley has traditionally pushed ahead with futuristic and clever innovations, many times a whole generation forward. From chemistry, material science, technology and deeper understanding of human behavior and the user experience, SRI, Google, Stanford University, Apple, Facebook, and more are all examples of ideation and birth of innovative.

The contextual world and PinPoint Marketing are creating a shift in our society. We are moving from a manufacturing society to an idea world. Efficiency is the key, as well as the collective global creativity. In many ways, this trend sounds exciting, but it's also scary. That said, today we already hear of apps and technology features that can turn-off bluetooth beacons and similar pinging communication, even sensor transmissions. So, entrepreneurship and innovation never seize!


1. Robert Scoble information:
According to Scoble's website/blog Scobleizer, he has moved to Facebook at and actively contributes and communicates there. Also on Twitter at and Google+ at

2. NoPanels organizes several events a year, bringing together investors, entrepreneurs, startups, executives from the tech world, and other players -

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