When do you feel dumb? You know, those moments when you just think, “Gee, I used to feel smart, but this proves otherwise.” I have a pretty long list of things that make me feel this way, and people who know me would surely not hesitate to add volumes, but one of the worst is not being able to find my car in a parking garage. It’s a picture of anger at what seems like a stubbornly impossible design, frustration at seeming to go back and forth through similar levels of agony, and annoyance at myself. I had one thing to remember. Moments like these are about as far removed as we can be from our era of smart technology while still being in civilization.
Luckily, that doesn’t have to be the case anymore. Needless to say, Silicon Valley is at the heart of what seems like obvious technology that somehow didn’t exist until someone finally thought of it: the smart garage. The Valley Fair Mall in San Jose has new smart technology in its garage that will help you find your car using cameras that can read license plates. All you have to do is punch in your plate number in a kiosk and it will remind you where you’re parked. The garage will also tell you if there are open spots and where they are, eliminating the crawling stutterstep that we usually do as we drive through garages to find a space. It’s simple, obvious, and another step toward all-encompassing, time-saving convenience.
A Day In Your Life: Let’s Go Shopping
Some people really like shopping; others find it to be a nightmare. Both sides would agree that it needs to be done. Shopping can be time-consuming, and you could be doing other, more enriching things. But let’s look at a not-too-distant future to see what mobile tech and the Internet of Things can do to save us some time.
You go to the store around 4:00. It’s mostly clothes and some things for the house. You go into the home goods store because you need some containers to store your various oats, grains, and other healthy, perishable foodstuffs. You find a nice set, but you aren’t sure if you’re paying too much. So you take out one of your shopping apps and scan the barcode or punch the item in, and you are instantly told if there is a cheaper place to buy it, be it a physical store or online. Luckily, you are in the cheapest place. You do a little more shopping and you go to check out.
Paying with your phone
Memories can flit through your mind faster than a cogent thought, and you have a weird memory of a time in a store when you wrote two checks in a row incorrectly, as everyone in line behind you grumbled and stared. But today, before that memory is even over, you’ve already paid with the secure payment app on your smartphone. You’re out of the store before you even really know it.
You’re about to head to the car when you walk past a grocery store. You hear an alert on your smartphone. The store is having a sale on eggs. You need eggs. This is because your refrigerator, which is connected to the Internet of Things, knew you were running low. Via geolocation, your phone was able to detect that you were by a store and that it was having a sale. Your phone talked to your fridge and you got the alert. All that’s left for you to do is get the eggs, so you do.
Finding your car and getting home
We already explored the genius that is the smart garage. Sure, you might already have an app or locator on your phone that could find your ride, but not everyone does. The smart garage brings smart technology to everyone. All you need to remember is your license plate.
Of course, you’re only halfway home. Or less. It’s 5:30 now and traffic has gotten bad. Luckily, you have a traffic app on your phone or in your car. It lets you know where the bad spots are and directs you to better routes to get you home more quickly.
Security and Privacy vs Convenience
One thread that runs through here is that nearly everything is dependent on your phone knowing where you are and your devices knowing a lot about you. For some people, this can be daunting. It may feel like there is too much informationout there, and for what? A little bit of convenience?
While we do need to have serious discussions about who has access to this kind of personal data, in the end, it is about more than mere convenience. It’s about time. It’s about saving time from the normal drudgery of life. I don’t want technology to do everything for me. But I do want it to help me get minutes – not on my phone, but in my life. Time spent sitting in the car or going from store to store is not productive. I can’t read a book or go on a picnic with my wife. Imagine saving a full hour of pointlessness every day. Imagine what you could do. Or not do, if you so choose.
That’s the power of mobile tech and the Internet of Things. We have the power to change our relationship to time. It becomes something we can better control, so it no longer controls us. What you do with that gift is up to you.