It would seem the Dick Tracy era is finally here.
For decades, the holy grail of modern technology has been the idea of the Dick Tracy watch. Originally debuting in the comic strip in 1946 as a two-way wrist radio that the police detective Dick Tracy and others on the force used to communicate with each other, by 1964 it was upgraded to include video capabilities. In many ways this simple device has been a beacon for what the future could hold in terms of personal technology for decades.
For as long as there have been PCs with increasing computing power and decreasing size, the question has been asked “how far away is the Dick Tracy watch.”
With the advent of smartphones and now the newly developing Internet of Everything/Things (IOE/T), we’ve reached a point where the Dick Tracy watch isn’t just a dream, it’s now a reality.
In the past year, Apple and Samsung have both debuted so-called “smartwatches.” These are devices that you wear on your wrist and can integrate with an iPhone or Android phone respectively though as of this writing, there are no video capabilities for these, yet.
While this first generation of smartphones doesn’t have the video capabilities that Dick Tracy’s watch had, they do boast a number of features that no one in those days could have even imagined. In particular, these first generation smartwatches combine their constant presence on the wearer’s wrist with geolocation service to act as a health and fitness tracker. They also provide support for a host of custom apps which can take further advantage of the watch’s presence on the user’s wrist. For example, Apple includes their Apple Pay electronic wallet capabilities in their device.
We can expect at CES this year to see even more innovations and improvements in smartwatch technology and capabilities. But a key thing that should be present in everyone’s mind with this incredibly powerful technology is what protections are in place on the device and in the cloud for this host of very personal information that these devices can gather. As technology gets closer and closer to our person and is ever more present, the capabilities for the amount and type of data to be collected increases considerably. Ten years ago it was beyond the realm of comprehension that something connected to the internet would be able to measure our sleep and record every step we take (and be able to locate those steps accurately on a map). Today it’s not just a possibility, it’s a reality. And while it’s easy to get lost in the “gee whiz” aura of CES, it’s important to temper that wonder with a measure of skepticism and pragmatism. Because data once gathered cannot be ungathered. And data once lost can never really be recovered.
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