Who Will You Connect?
Yes, the internet and wireless technologies are a wonderful way to stay connected to other like-minded people. Phonecalls and E-Mail help us to direct our ideas into reality more quickly than we could previously. Networked databases of information help serve us adds more effectively, and help us pinpoint disease outbreaks before they spread. You can even participate in the search for extra-terrestrial life, or discover new drugs with networking.
But all of these are basically built on the idea that networks are supposed to connect people together with other people. Like business cards. We can't help but wonder if there are unexplored ideas outside of this most basic connectivity range. It seems as though there are four different connectivity permutations, some of which have been explored, and some of which are relatively unexplored:
Person to Person : The most common idea. cellphones, the postal service, smoke signals, you get the idea. People communicate pretty well by now. Check out some of your other options.
Machine to Machine : Also has been pretty well explored. SETI@home and other P2P networks are prime examples. Some scientific monitoring systems, like the GEOFON network of seismometers or the VLA telescope array. There are still major opportunities in extending the capabilities of consumer devices that operate in groups, like cars with cruise control.
Person to Machine : The most common example here is through interfaces like on a computer CD player or washing machine. Newsreader programs like Kinja and Bloglines let one person access a network of machines for their information. Tantalizingly near are devices like this communication badge, which could allow people access to those networks from anywhere, and would allow backwards interaction. What creations are possible by combining the ability to access so many machines with unfettered mobility with which to do it?
Machine to Person : The distinction here is that machines may extract information from people without need for their participation. Computers which track purchases in stores like Wal Mart are already mining you for the information that they "want". What other vital information could machines use from users? Illnesses like Stroke, Alzheimer's, and other neurological illnesses have physical symptoms that could be recognised by a device, if designed correctly. Or, take a look at the breathalizer ignition interlocks which are going into service in the United States and Canada. This last group has perhaps the most opportunity, since it is only beginning to be explored.
As we've said before, design is connection. But it's not just people to people. The world is filling up with all kinds of new technology, and the only way that we're going to get the most out of it is to connect ourselves. And design is the interface for that connection.
Copyright 2004-2006 Dominic Muren and IDFuel Team